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Legislature Adjourns without Passing Ban on Toxic Flame Retardants — Bows to Demands of Chemical Industry

After one 105-day regular session, two special sessions and despite strong scientific evidence, tremendous public support and a coalition of over 50 public health, religious and fire service organizations, the legislature failed to adopt a comprehensive ban on ineffective toxic flame-retardants used in children’s products and furniture.

While the House of Representatives passed a strong Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act (ESHB 1294), the Senate passed a gutted version bowing to the demands of the chemical industry, Walmart and Association of Washington Business, endangering the health of communities throughout Washington.

“It’s often said the legislature doesn’t act until there’s a crisis – well, this is a crisis,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of the Washington Toxics Coalition. “The chemical industry has been allowed to poison our children, firefighters and the environment for decades despite the fact these chemicals pose significant health risks and aren’t effective,” said Valeriano.  “This should be a no-brainer, but with the Senate’s failure to adopt a comprehensive ban, the chemical industry is off the hook for another year and the health of kids, firefighters and the environment will suffer.”

Washington was among the first states to prohibit the use of flame retardants known as PBDEs, which new research links to lower intelligence and hyperactivity in children with higher levels in their bodies.  That legislation did not however, require that PBDE replacements be safer than their predecessors. ESHB 1294, as passed by the House, helped solve the problem of companies switching from one bad chemical to another.  The Senate refused to include the provisions that prevented this widespread practice and gave the health and environmental agencies the ability to protect the most vulnerable—children— from harmful flame retardants in the future.

“Nurses across the State are disheartened that the Washington State legislature failed to pass a bill to protect children, families and pets from toxic flame retardants that are commonly found in couches, nursing pads and pillows, car seats and more. This is a Public Health issue that is supported by both parties. It is distressing to see what the Senate did this session. When will addressing Public Health come first?” said Karen Bowman, MN, RN, COHN-S, Environmental Health Specialist, from the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA).

“We thank all of the legislators who worked tirelessly to move this important legislation forward,” said Valeriano. She continued,  “And  special thank yous go to the prime sponsors of the bill, Rep. Kevin Van De Wege and Sen. Sharon Nelson, as well as Sens. Jim Hargrove and Kevin Ranker and Reps. Dave Upthegrove, Zack Hudgins, Larry Springer, Pat Sullivan, and Speaker Frank Chopp for their leadership on this issue.”

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