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Schumer bill would phase out toxic flame retardants

Ten toxic chemicals to be banned in furniture and children’s products

This week, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) unveiled legislation to ban ten toxic flame retardant chemicals from use in upholstered furniture and children’s products. His bill would also create a process to examine and regulate other similar chemicals.

Flame retardants are often added to foam cushions in couches, chairs and nap mats; to plastics used in electronics and other products; and to foam insulation. Studies have linked the chemicals to cancer and developmental disabilities. A recent California study found firefighters’ work-related exposure to flame retardants and their combustion by-products places them at high risk for cancers and other serious health effects.

While some businesses and states are phasing out their use, critics say our weak federal laws continue to permit the chemicals to remain common and undisclosed to consumers. About 85 percent of couches in U.S. homes contain flame retardants.

A series of investigative articles published by the Chicago Tribune found the chemical industry misled the public and elected officials in portraying the chemicals as helpful in slowing the spread of fire, when in fact they have little positive effect.

Liz Hitchcock, legislative director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families said:

“Toxic flame retardants offer a false promise of fire safety, but in reality only increase our risk of cancer and neurological disorders. America’s families need protection from these ubiquitous hazards. Senator Schumer’s bill represents decisive action to get cancer out of our living rooms and playrooms. We welcome his legislation and urge the Senate to pass the bill.”