Toxic-free Kids Advances Safety

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Mary Lou Dickerson
Children’s Campaign Fund
Board Member

Keeping children safe leads our work with the Children’s Campaign Fund.

One critical way to help is to support policies that remove toxins from environments in which children live, learn and play.

I am proud to say that Washington state is a leader in this area. Washington Toxics Coalition, as well as several other children’s health, public safety and environmental groups which have banded together to make products for children safer through hard-won legislation such as the Toxic Toys Bill, Safe Baby Bottles Bill and the bill that phased out polybrominate biphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

The next step forward is to pass The Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act. This legislation bans six toxic-flame retardants on Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act list of “Chemicals of High Concern for Children,” and would make it more difficult for manufacturers to replace them with chemicals that have effects that are equally bad or worse.

The bill was introduced two years ago by Rep. Kevin VanDeWege and each year has passed the Washington State House of Representatives but has died in the Senate. It will be re-introduced in the next session.
Here are a couple links I recommend to learn more about this topic:

  • A recent HBO documentary,Toxic Hot Seat, gives an examination at how the chemical industry has interfered with the regulation of toxic flame retardants. Toxic Hot Seat
  • A Chicago Tribune 2012 feature on big tobacco companies involved in drafting U.S., fire safety standards, put in place to protect people from home fires. Critics have said it provided a distraction to the leading cause of fire-related deaths—smoking cigarettes. The Chicago Tribune “Playing with Fire” series with multimedia features The Chicago Tribune feature “Big Tobacco wins Fire marshals as allies in flame retardant push” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention factsheet on Fire Deaths and Injuries states “smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths”
  • Washington state firefighters are supporters of legislation such as Toxic-Free Kids Act to remove toxic flame retardants from consumer products in the state. Firefighters and those exposed to smoke from house fires are also exposed to dangerous levels of chemicals from the burning flame retardants. The Capital Record Feb. 2014 article “Firefighters want ban on chemical flame retardants in children’s products” WA Toxics Coalition blog article “Firefighters Take a Stand for Safer Chemicals”
  • These harmful flame retardants that leach out of products are linked to cancer, learning disabilities and reproductive difficulties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states the additive process of applying flame retardants “increases the potential for the flame-retardant chemical to leach out of the product to which it is applied.” It also states children and firefighters are two of the three populations most at risk for exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Flame Retardants webpage
  • A PBS Newshour of KCTS 9 of California discusses the recent change in California law related to furniture flammability standards discuss several sides of the issue from concerned parents and firefighters to a chemistry professor and a toxicologist. PBS Newshour program “Calif. law change sparks debate over use of flame retardants in furniture”

Pediatricians, nurses, faith groups, firefighters, disability rights advocates, community and environmental groups support banning these flame retardants. When you attend a state legislative campaign event, be sure to ask how the elected official intends to vote in the bill in the upcoming session.