Law banning fire retardant chemical in children’s products passes easily

A no-brainer for Vermont legislators this session was the passing of Senate bill S.81.

Both chambers of the Legislature unanimously approved the measure, which bans two forms of the chlorinated flame retardant Tris in “any children’s product or residential upholstered furniture.”

The chemicals, known as TCEP and TDCPP, have been associated with cancer and damage to the liver, kidneys, brain and testes. New York State banned certain children’s products containing TCEP in 2011 and Maryland followed suit last month.

TDCPP is frequently used as a replacement for the brominated flame retardant pentaBDE, which has been banned by many states across the country — including Vermont. But Vermont is the first state in the country to ban the TDCPP from children’s products and furniture.

While the TCEP laws in other states have pertained to products targeting children under the age of three, Vermont’s ban covers products for children 12 or younger.

Vermont is the first state to ban TCEP from furniture, and the new law will prohibit manufacturers from replacing TCEP or TDCPP with other known carcinogens.

Lauren Hierl, an advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, played a large role in pushing this legislation through the Vermont Legislature this year. She explained that chlorinated Tris was banned from children’s pajamas in the 1970s, but over the past 30 years it has become common in other children’s products, such as nursing pillows, car seats and toys.

“This bill puts in place the nation’s strongest protections from flame retardant chemicals,” she said. “Tris has become the most commonly used flame retardant in our couches. The stuff is all around us. We know it’s toxic, and it turns out it doesn’t protect us from fires.”

A range of organizations, from the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont to Planned Parenthood, lobbied hard for this ban.

“The public health implications of these chemicals are immediate and a direct threat to reproductive health,” said Nick Carter, an advocate for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “Men living in homes with high amounts of TDCPP in household dust had reduced sperm counts and altered levels of hormones related to fertility and thyroid function. This bill is an important step forward for all Vermonters and supports sound public health policy.”

A recent study carried out by leading researchers from across the nation supports Carter’s assertions. (link: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/121-a168/)

Vermont’s new bill bans the manufacturing of children’s products and furniture containing TCEP and TDCPP on Jan. 1, 2014. After July 1, 2014, the sale in or into Vermont of any such products will be prohibited.

The bill also gives the Vermont Department of Health the power to prohibit the manufacture and sale of these same products with the form of Tris known as TCPP. The discretionary power was given to the department while further studies are carried out on the chemical.

Andrew Stein

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