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New England News

New Massachusetts Law Bans Certain Chemical Flame Retardants

An exterior view of the Massachusetts State House in Boston
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      Massachusetts now has a law that bans chemicals used as flame retardants in many consumer products.

    Under a new law, manufacturers and retailers in Massachusetts cannot import or sell products including bedding, furniture, children’s items, window treatments, and carpeting that contain any of 11 chemicals that are used as flame retardants.

    Supporters of the new law including environmental activists, consumer advocates, scientists, health care workers, and professional firefighters argued the chemicals posed serious health hazards when burned and were really not all that effective at slowing down fires.  About two dozen members of the coalition met on a Zoom call Tuesday night to celebrate success after almost a decade of lobbying to get the law passed.

   Democratic State Senator Cynthia Creem of Newton said she first filed legislation eight years ago to outlaw the flame retardant chemicals.

  "The key is persistence and knowing you are right," said Creem.

   The legislation passed both the House and Senate in 2019 but was pocket-vetoed at that time by Republican Governor Charlie Baker.  The supporters were not deterred said Democratic State Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge.

"For me as an elected official, we have an incredible responsiblity to protect those who protect us, and we know  that firefighters have  and continue to die at a much higher rate of cancer directly related to the toxins left by the flame retardants at fires," said Decker.

   Richard MacKinnon, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts thanked the legislators and other advocates for their work on the bill.

  " This was personal for us in getting this done," said MacKinnon.  "What this bill means for firefighters is we hope to see a decreased amount in the cancers. We are still seeing our numbers climb."

Janet Domenitz, executive director of MassPIRG, which took the lead with Clean Water  Action and the firefighters in the lobbying campaign, said the law bans chemicals that do not work as promoted to curb fires and in actuality harmed people’s health when burned.

"This is such an important policy for public heath, for children, for firefighters and for our families," said Domenitz.

The law authorizes the state Department of Environmental Protection to work with researchers to possibly add more chemical flame retardants to the prohibited list.

Products that are in stock that were manufactured before December 31st, 2021 are not covered  by the new law.

  Civil penalties for the manufacture or sale of the covered products range from a maximum  $5,000 for a first violation up to a maximum $50,000 for third and subsequent violations.

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