Lawmakers consider banning some flame retardants from furniture, kids’ products

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban certain flame-retardant chemicals from furniture, bedding, and children’s products.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Michael Morin, who is also a fire captain in Woonsocket.

“It’s mostly the foam that’s the big problem, and it’s breaking down,” Morin explained. “When they break down, they’re combining themselves with dust molecules that people are inhaling every single day.”

The legislation would prohibit the manufacture, sale and distribution of residential upholstered furniture, upholstered bedding, and children’s products that contain one hundred parts per million (100 ppm) or more of any organohalogen flame retardant chemical.

“These chemicals are producing more smoke and more toxic gasses,” Morin added. “When a firefighter’s temperature raises five degrees, the pores dilate, which allows absorption into the skin. And firefighters have some of the highest cancer rates in the country.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, many flame retardants may be associated with adverse health effects in humans and animals including child development, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and neurological function.

But in a recent hearing in the Health, Education, and Welfare committee, Dr. Tom Osimitz, a toxicologist representing the American Chemistry Council, argued the proposed law is too broad.

“I think it’s important to consider flame retardants as individual chemicals, not as a group,” he said. “Some of them do cause cancer in animals, but not all brominated or chlorinated flame retardants do so. I think it would be unfortunate to ban or strictly limit many of those when they are actually quite, quite different.”

Thirteen states have enacted similar legislation.