FR Debate in MA
BOSTON — Four months after a bill restricting chemical flame retardants died on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, its proponents are again making their health-related case to lawmakers as industry representatives continue to voice concerns.
“We hope this bill comes out early, really early, so we all have an opportunity to stand tall, and if we need to, override any vetoes,” Sen. Cynthia Creem told the Public Health Committee on Tuesday.
At the very end of the last two-year legislative session, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, lawmakers worked to send Baker a bill that would prohibit the manufacture or sale of children’s products, household furniture and bedding that contain 11 chemical flame retardants. Despite a push by the 12,000-member Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, Baker pocket vetoed the bill and said he would have returned it with an amendment had time not run out.
“Now we have another chance,” said Creem, who along with Rep. Marjorie Decker refiled a version of the bill (H 3500, S 1230) this year.
Supporters have said the flame retardants targeted by the bill are unnecessary and can pose health risks to firefighters and children.
Creem, a Newton Democrat, and Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, testified alongside Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts President Richard MacKinnon, who said firefighters now deal with “a far more toxic soot” than in years past and face higher risks of cancer diagnosis and cancer death than the general public. Cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters, MacKinnon said.
“The hazards of these flame retardants presented are not new,” MacKinnon said. “However, we are learning more and more each day that these chemicals pose a greater risk than we ever thought we ever could have imagined. Exposure to these chemicals in performance of our duties and the resulting cancers associated with the exposure is the greatest threat to firefighters in Massachusetts and across the country.”
Baker wrote in a message to lawmakers in January that he looked forward to working with sponsors and stakeholders on a revised version. He said last session’s bill would have made Massachusetts the only state “to ban certain flame retardants in car seats and the non-foam parts of adult mattresses, products already subject to federal flammability requirements” and took issue with the June 1 implementation date.
Trade groups representing chemical companies, the electronics and technology industry, makers of children’s products, and mattress manufacturers testified against the bill.
Ryan Trainer, president of the International Sleep Products Association, said the bill, if passed, could force the redesign and remerchandising of many mattress styles, which would “cause commercial confusion,” raise prices for consumers and hurt manufacturing and retail businesses.
Joseph Colella of the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association said the 13 other states that have moved forward on flame retardant bans have exempted child car seats, which are regulated separately and could become more expensive if other flame retardants had to be used.
Representing the Consumer Technology Association, Dan Moyer said some chemicals listed in the bill are needed for circuit boards and electronic parts that carry currents or are near parts that carry currents. He said other states exempt consumer electronics and that while such an exemption was in last session’s bill, it is not this year.
Decker asked the committee to advance the bill in its current form and not carve out any particular products.
“The carve-outs are a game that we play when we’re at the 11th hour and we’re hoping to get something done,” Decker said. “A favorable recommendation is believing the science, a favorable recommendation is standing with pediatricians and children, and a favorable recommendation is standing with firefighters who every day risk their lives without ever complaining. They’re the only people in the world who run into a fire, and they’re asking us to take the science seriously and help protect their lives.”