Conservation Minnesota

Summer 2015 Newsletter: Protected from Toxic Chemicals

After fighting a couch fire to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of flame retardants in upholstered furniture, this firefighter’s mask is covered with carcinogenic soot.

After fighting a couch fire to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of flame retardants in upholstered furniture, this firefighter’s mask is covered with carcinogenic soot.

Steve Shapira has been a firefighter for over 17 years. Today, he is fighting his own battle with non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma and is one of at least 4 St. Paul firefighters currently being treated for cancer. Occupational-cancers cause 56% of line-of-duty deaths of career firefighters each year, and firefighters face a 14% higher cancer death rate than the general population.

In testimony before the Minnesota State Senate, Steve made the case for why flame retardant chemicals should be removed from upholstered furniture and children’s products. He highlighted the ineffectiveness of toxic flame retardants in preventing fires and stressed the fact that they release cancer-causing toxic byproducts.

Flame retardants also put the health of our children at risk. Toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture and children’s products migrate out of the products into household dust. Studies show that the levels of flame retardants in toddlers build up to five times higher than their parents. These chemicals are linked with hormone disruption, cancer and adverse effects on reproduction, learning and development.

The Minnesota Professional Firefighters Association recently partnered with Conservation Minnesota and Healthy Legacy to pass the most comprehensive flame retardant ban in the country. It phases out four toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture and children’s products by January 2018.

This important legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Dayton on May 20. We appreciate the leadership of chief authors Rep. Jeff Howe, an ex-firefighter, and Sen. John Marty who fought hard for the bill to protect the health of both firefighters and children. See how your Senator and Representative voted on this and other important conservation issues at CheckMyLegislator.org.

Read the rest of the Summer 2015 Newsletter

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