State Legislators Seek Federal Hearing on Flame Retardants

Current and former state lawmakers from 13 states are asking a United States congressional committee to investigate what they call “unethical chemical industry activities” against states’ attempts to regulate flame retardants. In a 16 July letter, the state legislators ask Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the panel’s top Republican, to convene an oversight hearing about flame retardants. The state lawmakers cited a recent investigative series in the Chicago Tribune that outlined tactics used by three major manufacturers of brominated flame retardants against state legislation that would limit the chemicals’ uses in furniture and other consumer goods. According to the Tribune articles, those companies—Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL Industrial Products—together created “Citizens for Fire Safety,” a front group that campaigned against lawmakers’ efforts to move bills that would limit use of retardants. According to the letter from 41 current and five former state lawmakers, “Many of us as legislators were faced with public attacks … including barrages of misleading paid television and newspaper ads.” A dozen legislators signing the letter were also among 21 state lawmakers who in June called for the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry trade group, to expel Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL Industrial Products. Among the worst tactics revealed in the Tribune series, the state legislators tell Boxer and Inhofe, are “misrepresenting the science related to both the effectiveness and health risks of flame retardant chemicals” and “employing an expert witness who repeatedly invoked a phony story of a child dying in a fire in order to justify flame retardant mandates.” The state lawmakers indicated they want to testify at an oversight hearing. “We want to share our perspective on those tactics and make it clear that the pattern of deception practiced by the chemical industry in state legislatures is unacceptable,” they write. Furthermore, the letter says that in the absence of congressional action, the legislators will introduce bills in their state legislatures in 2013 “to move away from flame retardants that have no added fire safety benefit.” In a related move, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services & General Government will hold a hearing on the effectiveness of furniture flammability standards and flame retardants.

Chemical & Engineering News, 17 July 2012 ; ;