In a major victory for Washington, DC Local 36, Mayor Muriel Bowser publicly signed legislation March 17 banning the use of toxic flame retardants.
The Carcinogenic Flame Retardant Prohibition Act prohibits the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any children’s product or residential upholstered furniture containing carcinogenic flame-retardants or chemicals known to be carcinogenic to humans, and authorizes the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to request and obtain a certificate of compliance from manufacturers who must respond within 30 days of the request.
“Studies have confirmed that flame retardant chemicals found in these products are a deadly cancer risk to families and fire fighters. Signing this bill into law is an important and proactive step to continue to fight back against this scourge of cancer,” says Local 36 President Ed Smith.
During the bill signing ceremony at the Engine 9 Fire Station, Smith praised Mayor Bowser and DC Councilmember Mary Cheh, chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, for supporting the flame retardant ban.
“I am pleased to be able to sign this bill for our brave fire fighters who run into burning buildings. This new law will help protect them from these unseen toxic dangers on the other side of the door,” Bowser said.
“We know that more than half of fire fighter deaths in the line of duty are the result of occupational cancers,” said CouncilmemberCheh. “This bill will help reduce that number and is one way we can help protect those who routinely risk their lives to protect us.”
The DC law is a big win for the International and state and local affiliates that have fought tirelessly to enact bans on the use of toxic fire retardant chemicals. Since 2003, 12 states have imposed bans, including Minnesota, Maine, Vermont, Washington state and California. This year, 11 other states will consider similar legislation.
In Canada, the IAFF in 2007 called on the federal government to ban PBDE-based flame retardants and replace them with safe alternatives. While the Canadian government agreed to such a ban in 2010, it has not yet been fully implemented.
In pressing for the measure across the nation, the IAFF cites a recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of more than 30,000 career fire fighters that found that fire fighters had statistically significant increases in both diagnosis and death from certain cancers.
Of the 7,352 names of IAFF members etched onto the walls of the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Colorado Springs, more than half died from occupational-related cancers.
“This is the largest health-related issue facing the fire-fighting profession,” said Pat Morrison, Assistant General President for Health, Safety and Medicine, during testimony before the DC City Council last September. “It is the IAFF’s position that this exposure contributes to a significantly higher incidence of cancer among fire fighters than the general public.”
Morrison testified at a DC City Council hearing in September, and in December offered testimony before the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Just days before the DC law was signed, he testified in Nashville, Tennessee, before the state General Assembly where lawmakers are considering a bill banning certain flame retardants. Legislators have agreed to conduct a study this summer.
“The fight is by no means over,” says Morrison, “and we will continue fighting for legislation in Tennessee and in other states where it has been introduced.”