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Last week Senate Bill 772, a California bill that would stop a de facto requirement for toxic chemicals in the foam of children’s furniture and baby products, barely made it out of the Assembly environmental committee.

The bill was originally expected to pass unanimously as it would rid products like baby bassinets, nursing pillows and high chairs of toxins researchers have found cause cancer, neurological impairments like hyperactivity and reproductive problems like low sperm count. However, the bill received a well-financed attack from the bromine chemical industry that had persuaded some people from the African American and Latino communities to testify that there was a fire safety hazard from these products and their children’s safety would be increased by their use.

Nothing can be further from the truth. The six to 12-second flame resistance provided by flame retardant chemicals in foam has shown no measurable benefit in terms of actual fire protection. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire deaths declined by 38% in California from 1980 to 1999, but decline was similar or even greater in states that do not require the toxins. Considering that most victims of fires die from smoke inhalation and not the actual flames, alternative fire-fighting measures like smoke detectors and sprinkler systems have proven more effective.

But research has shown that flame retardants can cause a host of life-threatening illnesses, including endocrine problems, thyroid problems, cancer, and neurological disorders. And it is low-income residents and communities of color most likely to be exposed to these chemicals and fall victim to these diseases as they purchase products laden with the toxins at the big box stores. Other communities can opt out by purchasing more expensive imported or toxic-free product lines of baby products. Furthermore older or second-hand products are more likely to have crumbly foam that will escape and cause the greatest health hazard.

Finally, as the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has pointed out, this mandate has not only offered false protection in the event of a fire but it has added an extra burden to their businesses, not only exposing their workers and offspring to these harmful chemicals, but passing on the added costs to consumers. Ridding baby products, furniture and ideally all products of unneeded and toxic flame retardants such as are currently found in baby products is good for our health and good for business.

The business and professions committee will hear testimony regarding this important bill tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10 a.m.. Please join me and other activists at the Capitol building in Sacramento.

Because manufacturers are loathe to create multiple lines to meet the needs of different states, most likely, families in other states are laying their babies to sleep in products with this toxic foam. So this is not an issue limited to California. If you can’t make the hearing, please consider calling the following legislators. Actually, call anyway:

Business and Professions Committee 
Mary Hayashi - Chair 
Dem-18 (916) 319-2018

Bill Emmerson - Vice Chair Rep-63 (916) 319-2063

Connie Conway 
Rep-34 (916) 319-2034

Mike Eng 
Dem-49 (916) 319-2049

Edward P. Hernandez 
Dem-57 (916) 319-2057

Pedro Nava 
Dem-35 (916) 319-2035

Roger Niello 
Rep-5 (916) 319-2005

John A. Perez 
Dem-46 (916) 319-2046

Ira Ruskin 
Dem-21 (916) 319-2021

Cameron Smyth 
Rep-38 (916) 319-2038

Many thanks all!

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