Safety groups petition consumer bureau to ban flame retardant products

Consumer safety groups want federal regulators to ban products made with the flame retardant chemicals known as organohalogens.

Groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Consumers Union are petitioning the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban consumer products containing the chemical in four categories — children’s products, furniture, mattresses and the casings around electronics.

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The groups say the chemicals, which migrate continuously out from everyday household products into the air and dust, have been linked to cancer, lower sperm count, premature births, decreased IQ in children, impaired memory, learning deficits, hyperactivity, hormone disruption and lowered immunity.

Firefighters, concerned for their health, are hoping to find another fire safety solution that’s non-toxic.

“When toxic flame retardants burn — and they do burn — it creates a serious health risk for fire fighters,” Harold Schaitberger, the International Association of Fire’s general president, said in a statement. “There is significant scientific data that shows the association between firefighting, exposure to deadly toxins and cancer.”

Though there is no law pushing manufacturers to use this chemical flame retardant in products, consumer groups argue there is no law prohibiting the use of these toxic chemicals either.

Lawmakers have been working to reform the nation’s toxic chemical laws for decades, but the effort has repeatedly stalled with Republicans and Democrats failing to reach a consensus on how it should be done.

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Meanwhile groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics are calling on the federal agency — the CPSC — to help protect one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations from what they say are some of the nation's most dangerous chemicals.

“Children’s natural behaviors –—playing on the floor, exploring different surfaces, putting things in their mouths — make them uniquely vulnerable to flame retardants and the harmful fumes and dust they emit,” Academy President Sandra Hassink said in a statement.

“These products must be made safer if we are to make children’s environments safer and secure the foundations of health for every child.”