Mass. firefighters seek ban on flame retardants

Fire officials claim that at least 10 chemicals used in flame retardants endanger firefighters and do little to stop fires


BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers are pushing legislation to ban the use flame retardants, arguing the chemicals are responsible for elevated cancer rates in firefighters.

Boston Globe reported that fire officials and environmental advocates claim that at least 10 chemicals used in flame retardants endanger firefighters and do little to stop fires. They support two bills that would prohibit manufacturers and retailers from using the chemicals in children's products and upholstered furniture.

"This is a vital public safety matter that we should be addressing," state Senator Cynthia Creem said. "As the industry has become aware of the risks, we need to do more to protect our families and firefighters."

Chemical industry officials said the evidence linking the chemicals to cancer remains uncertain.

"Because these substances do deter fires, they provide additional time for families to escape and provide more time for firefighters to arrive," Robert Simon, vice president of chemical products and technology at the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical companies, said.

Simon said no other state has proposed banning as many chemicals and the benefits of flame retardants outweigh the risks, according to the report. Other states, including California, Maine and Michigan, have stopped using flame retardants.

Michael Hamrock, who spent 13 years as a physician with the Boston Fire Department, said the city's firefighters are three times more likely to have cancer than the general public.

"No one should consider these chemicals safe," Hamrock said.

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