Bill Proposes Ban of Toxic Flame-Retardant Chemicals in Furniture … – WABI

Bill Proposes Ban of Toxic Flame-Retardant Chemicals in Furniture to Protect Firefighters

Legislation has been proposed to ban the use of toxic flame-retardant chemicals in furniture to protect firefighters.

Firefighters, lawmakers, and advocates stated their case at a public hearing on Monday in Augusta.

They’re calling for an end to toxic chemicals in the upholstery of residential furniture that might put firefighters at higher risk of developing cancer.

“I’ve attended a lot of funerals for firefighters dying of cancer- occupational cancer. It’s out there and we just need to address it. This is one of those pieces of the puzzle that we can fix.”

Lt. Gerry Gay, of the Sanford Fire Department and Professional Firefighters of Maine says he’s seen a dramatic increase in the number of colleagues contracting cancer.

He’s in favor of proposed legislation that would prohibit toxic flame retardants in new upholstered furniture. While the effects of this law would not be seen for years as couches and chairs across the state are already filled with these chemicals, it’s designed protect our state’s career and future firefighters.

“You’re not getting any additional time to get out of a house in the event of a fire as an inclusion of flame retardants in the foam. No fire starts inside a foam cushion where there’s no oxygen. There’s a absolutely no need for the chemicals to be in the furniture- it causes the furniture to break down earlier,” said Endicott.

Ross Endicott owns Endicott Home Furnishings in Scarborough and, as of 2014, no longer sells furniture with flame-retardant chemicals that he says don’t serve their purpose and could put consumers at risk too.

“Most likely if you were to be tested for them, you would show trace amounts of flame retardants in your body. They’re everywhere and we know that the exposure to high concentrations is to firefighters, we don’t know what the exposure to low concentrations is to everybody- but it can’t be good,” said Rep. Walter Kumiega, (D) the bill’s sponsor.

Former Senator Linda Baker submitted legislation last session for this very purpose, but it never left committee.

“As the dust particles get into your furniture, you sit on it, kids sleep on it, you vacuum these chemicals up and it’s adhering to the deaths so we’re all breathing this in. It may have been tagged the ‘firefighters bill’ because on ignition it becomes very toxic, but it does affect all of us,” said Baker.

As a widow of a firefighter who died of cancer, and the mother of two current firefighters, Baker says the time to act is now. Cancer in the fire service has become the number one cause of line-of-duty deaths.

Those in opposition to the bill say it’s over-regulating businesses, which doesn’t merit the state’s involvement, and that it would ban certain chemicals that pose no risk.


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