Deception, Unethical Lobbying Cited on Flame Retardant Chemicals

Washington, D.C. – On the eve of a U.S. Senate oversight hearing, professional firefighters and state legislators each decried the chemical manufacturers who deceived state legislatures about the dangers and efficacy of flame retardant chemicals.

In a July 16th letter to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, 46 state legislators from 13 states called for a Congressional investigation of the fire retardant scandal recently reported in a four-part front-page series by the Chicago Tribune called “Playing with Fire.”

In a July 13th letter, presidents and a health & safety director from four state professional fire fighters associations called on the American Chemistry Council, the chemical manufacturers trade group, to expel from its membership the three companies that produce flame retardant chemicals: Albemarle, Chemtura and ICL.

“The industry lies and distortions show that we can’t continue to rely on a voluntary honor system to protect the health of American children from dangerous chemicals,” said Andy Igrejas, campaign director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, the national coalition working for safer chemicals reform.  “Congress needs to step up and fix our broken chemical safety system by passing the Safe Chemicals Act.”

“Until Congress takes action, state legislators across the country will continue to work to pass legislation to keep our kids and families safe,” said Hannah Pingree, former Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and consultant to Safer Chemicals Healthy Families.

The chemical industry’s unethical practices cited in the letters and documented by the Tribune include:  creating a phony front group, Citizens for Fire Safety, to lobby against chemical restrictions; paying a burn doctor to present false testimony to state legislatures; covering up data that shows that flame retardants don’t work; and distorting the science that shows that flame retardants can damage the brains of developing children.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) will chair an oversight hearing on Tuesday, July 17th by the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.  The hearing will examine the effectiveness of upholstered furniture flammability standards and flame retardant chemicals in protecting consumers.

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847), sponsored by Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), is awaiting markup and a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  The Safe Chemicals Act would overhaul of obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) by require chemical manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their products and provide health and safety information on chemicals in commerce, while empowering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take immediate action to protect public health and the environment from dangerous chemicals.