After 27 years fighting fires, I got stunning news from my doctor. He diagnosed me with Transitional Cell Carcinoma (in my right renal pelvis), a rare form of cancer my doctor told me is usually found in people exposed to toxic chemicals or workers in the chemical industry. Within two years, two more firefighters at my station contracted the same form of cancer.
Here’s the scary thing: Research has shown that some flame retardants -- packed into the couches and foam products in our homes -- are known to cause cancer, and others are linked to a host of serious health problems. A new study looking at a group of 12 firefighters from San Francisco shows levels of flame retardant chemicals 2 or 3 times higher than the general population. One firefighter in the study had more than 11 times higher levels of chemicals than the average person!
What's worse is that fire safety experts are on record testifying that these dangerous flame retardant chemicals do not even effectively prevent fires in furniture and many other products.
My experience tells me that no one should be exposed to flame retardant chemicals, yet pounds of these chemicals are used in products in all of our homes. Shockingly, the Center for Environmental Health and the Alliance for Toxic Free Fire Safety recently found a cancer-causing flame retardant in baby products like crib mattresses and nap mats used in childcare locations across the United States.
So why are these dangerous and unnecessary flame retardants used in furniture and baby products across America? It’s because of an old California regulation that promotes the use of these cancer-causing chemicals in furniture and other products sold in the United States, regardless of where products are manufactured (this even applies to imported furniture).
Here’s the good news: This regulatory policy, TB 117, is actually being reconsidered RIGHT NOW, and it could be replaced with a new modern, scientific standard (called TB 117-2013) that would improve fire safety WITHOUT requiring these harmful chemicals. We have until March 26 to let the regulators know how important this decision is.
If TB 117 is revised, many furniture manufacturers have indicated that they would gladly remove these unnecessary flame retardants from their products, and thus from our homes.
Here’s the bad news: The flame retardant chemical industry is not going to surrender without a huge fight. These companies have spent decades -- and millions of dollars -- lobbying to keep these chemicals in household products. Last year, in an award-winning series of articles, The Chicago Tribune exposed the chemical industry’s “decades-long campaign of deception that has loaded the furniture and electronics in American homes with pounds of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.”
As firefighters, we face a "chemical cocktail" when we enter burning buildings, and we don't let that risk prevent us from doing our jobs. But, if these flame retardants are ineffective and unnecessary, there's no reason why anyone should bear the burden of exposure to harmful chemicals in our homes merely to benefit corporate interests.
Fortunately, the regulators in charge of updating TB 117 have drafted a standard that provides greater fire safety without relying on the use of toxic chemicals -- but they need to hear from people across America soon before they make their final decision. Will you sign my petition in support of a safer, scientific flammability standard -- and share this link with your friends?