New York Governor Signs First-in-Nation Restrictions on Toxic Flame Retardants
January 03, 2022
Law is first-ever ban on organohalogen flame retardants in televisions and other electronic enclosures
Health advocates nationwide applaud the move and anticipate more government and corporate policies to follow
PORTLAND, OR⸺On December 31, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a groundbreaking bipartisan bill restricting the use of flame retardants in furniture, mattresses, and electronic displays. While several states have passed similar legislation, New York is now the first in the U.S. to also include a prohibition on organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) in electronic enclosures such as televisions. This new law mirrors a similar prohibition adopted by the European Union.
Health advocacy organizations from New York and states across the country applaud this move and anticipate more government and corporate policies to follow. Clean and Healthy New York, Safer States, and Toxic-Free Future released the following statements in response to this news.
“It should be unthinkable for the materials used to make couches, mattresses, and electronics to contain chemicals that harm our health and our planet. Today, Governor Hochul helps advance that shift by banning broad classes of harmful chemicals in these product categories,” said Bobbi Wilding, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York. “We are proud to stand with firefighters, families, legislative leaders, NAACP and numerous allies, as we continue to push for a just and healthy world.”
“This is another clear demonstration of state policies leading the nation,” explained Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States. “We applaud New York’s bold leadership in protecting its residents from the toxic threat of flame retardant chemicals. We expect this to have a ripple effect across the country and for other states to follow their lead. For example, Washington state is likely to act soon.”
“We need states like New York to provide leadership on these kinds of protections,” said Liz Hitchcock, Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “Five years ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued guidance to avoid the use of certain toxic flame retardants in everyday products but has not followed through to set necessary regulations. Now is the time.”
“Today’s action underscores the need for action from electronics retailers like Amazon and Best Buy,” Mike Schade, Director of the Mind the Store campaign, a program of Toxic-Free Future. “Retailers and television manufacturers, who have been lagging for years, should move quickly to eliminate these toxic chemicals in televisions sold across the nation.”
BACKGROUND ON TOXIC FLAME RETARDANTS
Toxic flame retardants are dangerous cancer-causing and brain-harming chemicals associated with adverse health effects including endocrine and thyroid disruption, as well as harmful impacts to the reproductive and nervous systems. These chemicals can escape from products and contaminate our homes, workplaces, and bodies. Safer alternatives have been identified for all the uses restricted in the new law.
A 2019 scientific study led by Toxic-Free Future found organohalogen flame retardants in 100% of TVs tested, which were purchased from Best Buy and Amazon. Toxic-Free Future and its Mind the Store program submitted a memorandum of support to the New York state legislature to phase out organohalogen flame retardants in electronics through its bill S4630A.
Currently, 16 states in the U.S. have adopted more than 45 policies restricting toxic flame retardants. New York’s policy follows policies adopted in California, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Policies that restrict toxic flame retardants in furniture, mattresses, children’s products, and electronics are also anticipated in other states. Washington State is implementing a groundbreaking chemical policy law, Safer Products for Washington, that gives the state Department of Ecology the authority to ban chemical classes in consumer products.
CLEAN AND HEALTHY NEW YORK
Clean and Healthy New York (CHNY)’s mission is to build a just and healthy society in which toxic chemicals are simply unthinkable. CHNY’s work changes laws, shifts markets, and empowers people to advance innovative solutions and create a sustainable economy. Leveraging the scale of New York’s economy and harnessing the power of collaboration, CHNY wins policies that drive national change, such as the Family and Fire Fighter Protection Act.
CHNY co-leads the JustGreen Partnership, a coalition of 50 groups representing nearly a million New Yorkers working together for environmental health and justice for the state’s people and communities. www.chny.org
Safer States is a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states across the country that share a bold and urgent vision to protect people and communities from toxic chemical threats. By harnessing place-based power, Safer States creates innovative solutions that promote safer alternatives and helps prevent harm to people and the environment caused by dangerous chemicals. Working directly with state-based advocacy organizations, Safer States provides support and strategic guidance to advocates as well as a platform for national collaboration and coordination. www.saferstates.org
Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that advances the use of safer products, chemicals, and practices through science, organizing, advocacy, and consumer engagement to ensure a healthier tomorrow. Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is a Toxic-Free Future program dedicated to achieving strong federal policies that protect the public from toxic chemicals. Mind the Store is a Toxic-Free Future program that challenges retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives, and scores major retailers on their safer chemicals policies in an annual Retailer Report Card.
Stephanie Stohler, Safer States & Toxic-Free Future
Paul Webster, Clean and Healthy New York