Statement from Californians for Toxic-Free Fire Safety

Statement from Californians for Toxic-Free Fire Safety

San Francisco, Calif. — California Governor Jerry Brown announced in a statement today that he has directed state agencies to revise the decades-old flammability standards and to recommend changes to reduce the use of toxic fire retardants. The Californians for Toxic-Free Fire Safety had the following response:

“We applaud Governor Brown’s announcement to reduce toxic chemicals marketed as flame retardants. These chemicals have been ineffective at stopping fires and they threaten human health. Studies show these flame retardant chemicals are now found in the bodies of nearly all North Americans, with Californians and children having the highest levels[i]. Flame retardant chemicals have been linked to lower IQ, autism, infertility, and cancer — all serious and expensive health conditions that are on the rise.

“Studies show that flame retardant chemicals in your furniture do not stop fires — instead, they make fires more deadly, and may be linked to firefighters’ significantly elevated rates of cancer, including multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate and testicular cancer, malignant melanoma and brain cancer.

“Since the Chicago Tribune’s May 2012 publication of the searing four-part series on the flame retardant chemical industry, national and international attention has been drawn to California’s rule called Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117). This rule is a virtual mandate for adding chemicals to foam furniture and baby products manufactured throughout North America. The investigative series illustrates the deceptive tactics industry uses to keep their toxic products on the market and their close ties to the tobacco industry.

“We look forward to partnering with Gov. Brown and the Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to fix this burning problem for the state of California.”

Following are statements from groups participating in the Californians for Toxic-Free Fire Safety coalition.

California Professional Firefighters
“As the Governor has acknowledged, numerous studies show that firefighters face significantly elevated risk of developing many different types of cancer, risks related to the chemical exposures they face every day on the job,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “The combustion by-products created by fires involving flame retardants turn these toxic mixtures even more deadly.”

Consumer Federation of California
“We are pleased to hear that the Brown Administration is taking action to replace this antiquated regulation with a new standard that will prevent the spread of home fires without the use of harmful chemicals,” said Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California.

Friends of the Earth
“Governor Brown today took the first step towards ending a toxic nightmare that has caused the contamination of humans, animals, and marine species around the globe. He continues to demonstrate the vision and leadership that we have counted on for decades, and is to be roundly applauded,” said Russell Long, board member, Friends of the Earth.

California League of Conservation Voters
“Our families deserve better than lies from the chemical industry,” said Sarah Rose, CEO California League of Conservation Voters. “We applaud Governor Brown for recognizing that it is time for California to take the lead, as our state does on so many important environmental health and safety issues, and update this dangerous and outdated flammability standard that puts our children and our environment at risk.”

Environmental Working Group
“We are literally polluting the entire world with our four-decade old guidelines,” said Renee Sharp, senior scientist and director of Environmental Working Group’s California office. “Contrary to industry’s talking points, toxic flame retardants do not increase protection against fire dangers but taint our bodies and those of our children with chemicals linked to infertility, cancer and behavioral changes.”

Clean Water Action
“The Governor’s announcement has world-wide implications because the problem with flame retardant chemicals isn’t isolated to our living rooms,” said Andria Ventura, Program Manager of Clean Water Action. “These chemicals travel readily through the environment and have been found in the water and tissues of living things as far away as the Arctic.  Eradicating these chemicals is important for the planet.”

For more information:
[i] A 2011 research team led by Dr. Ami Zota at the University of California – San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment measured the PBDE flame retardants in pregnant women. The levels in pregnant California women were 10 to 100 times higher than pregnant women in Europe and Asia, about two to three times higher than pregnant women in other parts of the U.S. Another 2011 conducted by researchers at University of California – Berkeley, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, Mexico, found that Mexican-American children in California had seven times more flame retardants in their bodies than children in Mexico and three times more flame retardants in their bodies than their mothers. The study notes, ‘The few studies of PBDEs in children’s blood worldwide indicate that children living in California have some of the highest documented PBDE serum concentrations.’

Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722
Becca Connors, 202-222-0744


Friends of the Earth fights to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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