Sen. Lesser joins colleagues in voting to ban toxic flame retardants from children's products and household items

BOSTON – Senator Eric P. Lesser joined his Senate colleagues Thursday in voting to ban certain toxic chemical flame retardants from children's products, including toys and nap mats, as well as in upholstered furniture, window dressings, carpeting, and bedding made or sold in the state. Bill S2338, An Act to protect children, families, and firefighters from harmful flame retardants, passed unanimously with a 38-0 vote. The measure was introduced by Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton).

“We’ve worked for the last two years to ban these deadly chemicals from everyday items that people use on a daily basis,” said Sen. Lesser. “The wide array of groups that support this common sense legislation – from our firefighters to environmental organizations – demonstrates the wide-ranging positive impacts these protections will have on our constituents.”

Foam products, including toys, are the most likely items to be treated with flame retardant chemicals.  Over time, the chemicals can become dust disbursed through the home, and then inhaled or absorbed by children, pets and other family members.

Chemical compounds used as flame retardants can change as chemists develop new formulas. The Senate bill calls for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to update the list of prohibited chemicals by reviewing new flame retardants in consultation with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell and other state agencies at least every three years.   

“This bill will reduce everyone’s exposure to several dangerous chemicals.  These flame retardants are added to foam and other products in the mistaken belief they will protect us in the case of a fire,” said Sen. Creem. “Instead, they are harming us, and they pose extra health risks to firefighters because of the toxic smoke created during an actual fire.”

The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts support this legislation, and have raised special concerns because of the heightened health risks when products with chemical flame retardants are exposed to high heat and combustion. Environmental groups, including the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and the Silent Spring Institute, expressed support for the measure as well.

Legislation banning these dangerous flame retardants was enacted at the end of 2018, but ultimately it did not become law. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where similar legislation was filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge).

Eric Lesser