Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

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Kara Cook-Schultz

Statement from Kara Cook, U.S. PIRG Toxics Director:

“Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

“The CPSC voted to issue a strongly worded guidance warning the public of the hazards posed by this class of flame retardants in children’s products, mattresses, electronic casings and furniture. This is a huge victory for consumers, firefighters, and children.

“These chemicals have been associated with serious human health problems, including cancer, reduced sperm count, increased time to pregnancy, decreased IQ in children, impaired memory, learning deficits, hyperactivity, hormone disruption and lowered immunity.

“Since these chemicals migrate continuously out from everyday household products into the air and dust, more than 97 percent of U.S. residents have measurable quantities of toxic organohalogen flame retardants in their blood. Children are especially at risk because they come into greater contact with household dust than adults, and have three to five times higher blood levels of these chemicals than their parents.

“Firefighter organizations are deeply concerned about the use of this class of chemicals as well. When consumer products containing these chemicals burn, the fire and smoke become more toxic. The International Association of Fire Fighters has determined that there is a link between exposure to the fumes created when toxins burn and the disproportionately high levels of cancer among firefighters.

“The CPSC’s vote to grant the petition will start a rulemaking process at the CPSC. However, because the rulemaking process will take time, the Commission is urging manufacturers not to use these chemicals in the production of children’s products, mattresses, furniture and the casings of electronics. The CPSC also announced that it will convene a scientific panel to provide guidance to assist the Commission staff regarding the hazards posed by organohalogen flame retardants.”