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Safe Kids campaign gets boost in California Senate

Posted Apr. 24, 2009 / Posted by: RConnors

Toxic Free Baby ProductsLast year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warned against the use of fire retardant chemicals in baby products and furniture. This is because scientists around the world have linked these chemicals to hormone disruption, neurological and developmental impairments, cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and a host of other health disorders.

Yet despite these urgent warnings, Governor Schwarzenegger still refuses to update a California law leading to the use of these toxic chemicals in almost all juvenile products and furniture containing polyurethane foam (the spongy foam inside high chairs, strollers, nursing pillows, changing tables, and portable car seats). The result? California infants have the highest levels of fire retardants in the world.

According to state and federal agencies, baby products are NOT a fire risk, and therefore there is no reason for fire retardants to be added to them. Senate bill 772 sponsored by Senator Mark Leno would end this problem by exempting baby products from this toxic chemical mandate.

Background

Californians have the highest body burdens in the world of pentaBDE, a potent endocrine disrupting toxic chemical. This toxic chemical is halfway in structure between PCBs and dioxins. Why do we have this chemical in our bodies? Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), a California state flammability requiring that the foam in furniture and baby products resist an open flame for twelve seconds, has led to the annual use of millions of pounds of such chemicals in California since the early 1980's. While pentaBDE is now banned, its chemical cousins are present in the polyurethane foam in baby products including cribs, car seats, strollers, playpens, high chairs, etc. -- items that infants and young children come into repeated contact every day.

However, there is a lack of evidence from federal or state agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Bureau of Home Furnishings that these products actually pose a fire hazard. According the National Fire Protection Association, there is no credible evidence that fire retardants actually reduce fire deaths in California. Fire deaths declined by 38% in California from 1980 to 1999, but the decline was even greater in other states that don't have standards leading to the use of these toxic chemicals.

Negative Public Health Impacts

Halogenated fire retardants, which are the least expensive and most likely chemicals to be used to meet this regulation, have been linked to endocrine disruption, neurological and developmental impairments, cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, and a host of other health disorders in many dozens of animal studies. The chemicals migrate from products in the home into household dust, humans, pets, and the environment. A typical household can contain up to several pounds of these chemicals, and their extensive use to meet TB117 has led to contamination of the global environment.

These fat-loving chemicals cross the placenta and accumulate in body fat and breast milk. Babies are born with fire retardants in their bodies. They get an additional dose from their mother's milk and from exposure to baby products, resulting in toddlers having three times greater levels than their mothers. Fire retardants are also entering the food chain, especially in dairy products, meat, poultry, and fish.

Draft Federal Standard Reduces Use of Fire Retardants: In December of 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted for a draft furniture flammability standard that will reduce the use of such fire retardants nationwide. CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore concluded that "No one wants to trade fire risks for chemical toxicity risks."

SB 772's Goal

In accordance with concerns expressed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, SB 772 modifies Technical Bulletin 117 to exempt juvenile products containing polyurethane foam such as cribs, removable child car seats, strollers, and nursing pillows from a de facto mandate that they be treated with halogenated fire retardants.

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