By Nwanne Agada
A year ago, NC Child issued an alert to which many of you responded. The alert noted that the Consumer Products Safety Commission was considering a petition to ban the use of organohalogen flame retardant chemicals in children’s products, furniture, mattresses and electronic casings.
This entire class of chemicals has been associated with serious human health problems, particularly for children. These health impacts include cancer, reduced sperm count, increased time to pregnancy, decreased IQ in children, impaired memory, learning deficits, hyperactivity, hormone disruption and lowered immunity.
The good news is that your concerns, and those of like-minded folks across the nation have been heard: the CPSC recently voted to approve the ban, setting in motion the regulatory process to organohalogen flame retardants from the products noted above.
When these chemicals are added to products, they inevitably wind up in our bodies. The chemicals move out continuously from household products into the air and dust. Studies show that more than 97 percent of U.S. residents have measurable quantities of toxic organohalogen flame retardants in their blood. Children are the most vulnerable to the toxic effects of flame retardants because they come into greater contact with household dust then adults and because their rapidly developing bodies are more sensitive to toxic chemicals. Studies have shown that children have three to five time higher blood levels of these chemicals than their parents.
We need to remain vigilant, because the CPSC vote, which was only 3-2 in favor of a ban, was just the first step in the process. The CPSC will need to draft regulations under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) and organize a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) to review scientific data that will support developing future regulations. As the rulemaking process is going on, the CPSC has ordered the publication of a Guidance Document in the Federal Register alerting manufacturers, retailers, and the public of the hazards posed by organohalogen and how to shift away from using them.
The future of these regulations are uncertain due to the possibility of industries pushing back on regulations, and the composition of the CPSC may change with different members not wanting to move forward on passing regulations banning organohalogen flame retardants.
For now, we remain hopeful. We are grateful for the many organizations and scientists that have been integral in pushing for this ban for many years. And we are especially thankful for your continued support of initiatives that improve the environment in which our children live and grow. We will keep you abreast of the next steps in this process and will doubtlessly call on you to take action again.