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MN Enacts Ban on Flame Retardants

Thursday, May 21, 2015

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ST. PAUL, MN—Minnesota has turned up the heat on flame-retardant chemicals, enacting the nation’s most restrictive law of its kind.

The state has imposed a ban on four flame-retardant chemicals used in upholstered residential furniture and children’s products. (The ban does not apply to building materials.)

Gov. Mark Dayton signed SF 1215 into law Tuesday (May 19). The measure passed 125-6 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

MN state capitol
Jonathunder / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Minnesota lawmakers have passed legislation targeting flame-retardant chemicals used in furniture and children's products. The legislation also calls for more study to be done on chemicals not included in the ban.

A previous version of the bill included 10 chemicals and gained Senate approval in April. But the chemical and business communities decried the measure as too broad, and a compromise was struck.

Still, the Minnesota restrictions remain broader than similar bans approved in Oregon, Maine and Vermont, the Star Tribune reported.

The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville), says he will continue to push for a tougher ban.

Cancer Concerns

Flame retardants are widely used in consumer products and environments, including household furniture, foam insulation, textiles, electronic equipment, and plane interiors.

They are added to impede the ignition of flammable materials and slow fire spread.

Some of these chemicals, however, can persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in people and animals, and have been shown to cause neurological developmental effects in animals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Consumer Product Safety Commission

Flame-retardant chemicals impede the ignition of flammable materials and slow fire spread. Firefighters say the chemicals do not work as promised and create a toxic working environment.

Moreover, firefighters argue that flame retardants are contributing to their profession’s increased cancer rates, which are almost double that of the general population.

“We believe the science is clear that these chemicals do little to nothing to decrease the growth of fires, while they are clearly adding to the toxicity of the environments in which we are called to work every day,” Chris Parsons, president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters union, told The Pioneer Press.

Industry Answers

The American Chemistry Council and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce contend that the chemicals enhance safety.

"Firefighters play an important role in the safety of our cities and towns, and we think their concerns should be taken very seriously," ACC spokesman Bryan Goodman said in an e-mail.

However, the group wants more study on the effects of fire and smoke on firefighters.

"But irrespective of the presence or absence of these flame retardants, fire, smoke and the associated residual combustion byproducts are hazardous," Goodman said.

4 Chemicals Targeted

Minnesota’s new law prohibits use of four of the most commonly used flame retardants:

  • TDCPP (tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate);
  • Decabromodiphenyl ether;
  • Hexabromocyclododecane; and
  • TCEP (tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate).

By July 1, 2018, manufacturers must stop selling children’s products and upholstered residential furniture containing the chemicals in Minnesota.

Howe
Official Photo

A former firefighter, State Rep. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville), vows to continue his push for a tougher ban.

Manufacturers may not replace a banned chemical with one identified by a state, federal or international agency as known or suspected of causing health problems.

The law also requires the state health commissioner and fire marshal to study the effects of additional fire-retardant chemicals and report back to the legislature by Jan. 15, 2016.

   

Tagged categories: Additives; Coating chemistry; Construction chemicals; Flame-retardant coatings; Government; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Regulations

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