Fire is dangerous but so are the chemicals that slow the spread of flames in furniture. And a California state senator thinks parents should have a choice about which risks their children ae exposed to.
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is pushing a bill that would require juvenile products to be clearly labeled with whether or not they contain flame retardant chemicals.
Although they may increase safety in the event of a fire, these chemicals have been linked to health hazards like cancer, infertility, hormone disruption, and hyperactivity. The look and the feel of the products is soft and safe, but flame retardants can create carbon monoxide when burned. This is not only a threat to families, but also can also be hazardous to firefighters, Leno said.
Leno is looking to cover as many child-oriented items as possible in his new legislation, Senate Bill 763. This includes bassinets, high chair pads, nap mats, strollers, kid’s upholstered furniture, infant seats, baby carriers worn by parents, and many more. The new bill also would apply to common household items that children come into contact with on a daily basis.
This is not Leno’s first attempt at getting flame retardants in check. He has been a longtime advocate of updating California’s flammability standards, which led to prevalent use of fire retardants in the first place.
Leno’s main goal is to let consumers have options when making important purchases, he said.
“It’s important to label them because these are products with which our youngest and most vulnerable have their most intimate daily contact. They’re possibly sucking on them, they’ve got their head buried in them, they’re embraced by them, and these chemicals are most dangerous to them,” Leno said.
If passed, Leno’s bill could have some serious consequences for those that don’t label their goods appropriately. There would be fines and penalties if a company doesn’t adhere to the guidelines. A first offense could carry a $1,000 fine, which could be increased to $10,000 for a fourth or subsequent violation.
Not everyone agrees with Leno. The American Chemistry Council says the retardants are a vital tool and already subject to review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
We should “not lose sight of the fact that flame retardants provide an important layer of fire protection and help save lives,” said council spokesman Brian Goodman. His alternative to Leno’s proposition would have legislators work with California policymakers to “build on the progressive fire safety measures that have been responsible for the reduction in fires and fire deaths in California over the last several decades”.
Leno's bill has been co-sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters, the Center for Environmental Health, and the Consumer Federation of California.
Leno says his objective is to give consumers the option to make informed choices on what they want to expose their families to. He thinks that providing this option will also help create an industry standard which will have an effect on the world market. People will be able to make clear choices on what they prefer.
Additional editing and reporting by Christopher Maynard