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Elisa Batista's picture

Today I was in Sacramento testifying in support of a bill that would help eliminate flame retardants from baby and toddler products.

The good news is the bill survived the business and professions committee and is off to the Assembly appropriations committee. The bad news is it was watered down a bit. The bill passed with two amendments. One amendment restricts the bill's coverage to only four baby products: strollers, high chairs, nursing pillows and bassinets. The other called for labels on flame retardant-free products, which I support but am not thrilled with the wording.

The Assemblyman who proposed the amendment, John Pérez, wants it to say (paraphrased), "These items do not meet California's fire guideline TB117." While I cannot speak for all advocates of this bill, I would like the labels to read, "This item contains no flame retardants."

Passions ran high on both sides. Those of us who supported the bill largely hailed from environmental organizations and activist groups. The opposition was largely comprised of industry lobbyists and members of the Black Chamber of Commerce who were very well represented. They had African American doctors, teachers and even children testify against the bill because the victims of fires tend to disproportionately be African American.

While I do not doubt their sincerity on this issue, I wish someone had pointed out that these deaths are occurring even with flame retardants in everything in our homes. Statistically, the six-to-12-second resistance offered by flame retardants have had no measurable benefit in preventing fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

But the science on flame retardants is mixed at best. Those of us who are uncomfortable with these toxins in our homes should have the right to purchase toxic-free products without breaking the bank. At least give us the option. I do believe the door was cracked open to that possibility.

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