NY lawmakers consider ban of flame retardants in consumer products

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 5:21 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - A bill in the New York state Senate aims to ban flame retardant chemicals in furniture. electronics, and other consumer products because of concerns over their safety.

Supporters of the bill say long-term exposure to the halogenated chemicals and other compounds in the retardants can be harmful to people, but opponents say getting rid of them could be deadly.

Matthew Blais with the nonprofit SouthWest Research Institute says states shouldn’t pass bills banning flame retardants. He says a video of a television going up in flames demonstrates the dangers of products that don’t contain the retardants. “The fire retardant breaks down and releases the bromine and it chemically stops the fire,” Blais said.

If it doesn’t stop the fire completely, Blais says it will slow it down, allowing more time for people to get out of the house. He says in 2013, California made a similar change to its couch standards and fire-related deaths have gone up every year. “Coincidence isn’t causality but in this case, it’s a pretty strong link,” he said.

Supporters of the bill say there is no proof California’s ban increased deaths and they question whether the chemicals even hamper the spread of a fire.

“Those claims have repeatedly been made but they don’t hold up. Independent scientists and regulatory bodies have regularly found these chemicals don’t provide meaningful fire safety in these products,” said Avi Kar with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says long-term exposure has been linked to health problems, affects, especially for children and firefighters. “They are associated with things like cancer, learning disabilities, reduced IQ, reduced fertility, and also with disruption of hormones.”

And Kar says the retardants are harmful even when they’re not burning. He says they are unnecessary. “California and Maryland have already banned the use of these chemicals and companies are already making products without these chemicals in them, and they are perfectly fine, people are safe,” he said.

The bill remains in committee and its prospects this session are unclear.

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