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Victory in California!

The fight against toxic flame retardants surged forward today as California finalized a policy protecting its citizens from the entire class of these dangerous chemicals. After months of hard work led by the California Professional Firefighters, the Center for Environmental Health, and the National Resources Defense Council, Governor Jerry Brown put pen to paper and signed a landmark policy into law.

Last year, we saw the state of Maine lead the way on banning flame retardants as a class in upholstered furniture. Rhode Island was close behind them, banning all organohalogen flame retardants in bedding, children’s products, and furniture. Now, California has pushed the bar even higher, banning all toxic flame retardants in children’s products, mattresses, and furniture. With each policy, we see states building on each other’s victories to achieve greater and greater protections against toxic chemicals.

Toxic flame retardants are often unnecessarily added to children’s products, furniture, and mattresses under the justification of meeting flammability standards. They leach out of materials and into our bodies, raising the risk of cancer, disrupting hormones, and linked to other health impacts, especially in children. Firefighters are also particularly effected, as when products containing flame retardants burn, massive amounts of them are released all at once. California Professional Firefighters were integral in ensuring this policy passed.

“Flame-retardant chemicals offer little added fire safety benefit, but exposure to smoke that carries these toxins increases the already-substantial risk our firefighters face from job-related cancer,” said Brian K. Rice, president of California Professional Firefighters (CPF). “The passage of AB 2998 is a major step forward, not only for the safety of our first responders, but for the health of those we protect.”

Other advocates were just as essential, corralling coalitions, crafting comments, and providing testimony to both the House and Senate.

“Today’s vote to ban products with unnecessary flame retardants represents a landmark public health victory that will serve as a model for the nation to follow,” said Alvaro Casanova, California policy manager of Center for Environmental Health (CEH). “California is sending a clear message: Peoples’ health and science should determine public policy not chemical industry profits.”

“California is taking a big step forward to protect firefighters and kids,” said Avinash Kar, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “This bill ends unnecessary exposure to toxic flame retardant chemicals in many household products. The chemicals do not make these products any safer—and it is time to get rid of them.”

This protective policy is a shining example of what hard work, cooperation, and perseverance can achieve. Together, the states are working to protect their citizens and create a network of policies that will change the market and lead to the elimination of toxic flame retardants forever.

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