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Fight Against Flame Retardants

Maryland is a leader in the fight to protect our families and fire fighters from toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Flame retardant chemicals accumulate in our bodies and have been linked to harmful health effects. They release cancer-causing chemicals when they burn, endangering fire fighter health.

The CDC has found these chemicals in the bodies of upwards of 90% of Americans, and they are found in higher levels in children than adults. Americans have higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies than other developed countries.

In 2020, thanks to the advocacy of Maryland PIRG, Maryland fire fighters and our partners, Maryland banned the sale of furniture and children’s products containing chemical flame retardants starting June 1, 2021.

Health Impacts

Chemical flame retardants are added to many products in our homes, including: toys, fabrics, furniture, and electronics. These chemicals can escape into the air and dust and then enter our bodies.

Many of the chemicals used to make flame retardants accumulate in the body and are linked to: endocrine disruption, cancer, reduced IQ and poor attention in children, heart disease, and infertility. Babies and young children are more vulnerable than adults to exposure to toxic flame retardants.

Firefighters are also at increased risk of exposure. Products containing chemical flame retardants produce highly toxic carcinogenic fumes when they burn.  More than half of all career firefighter line-of-duty deaths are from job-related cancers.

  • <h4>Where are chemical flame retardants used?</h4><p>Flame retardants are in products all around us like toys, furniture, and electronics.<p><p>  While some chemical flame retardants are already banned, and some companies are voluntarily keeping them out of their products, they are still prevelant, especially in foams, fabrics, and electronics.
  • <h4>How are people exposed?</h4><p> We are exposed to these chemicals in a variety of ways: direct contact, air and dust. Researches have found that children have higher concentrations in their bodies. <p><p> When products containing these chemicals burn they produce highly toxic and carcinogenic gas which puts fire fighters at increased risk.<p><p>  These chemicals are bioaccumalitive in our bodies - the exposure builds up over time.
  • <h4>Don't we need them for fire safety?</h4><p>No. Research has shown that chemical flame retardants are not effective at reducing harm from fire. <p><p>That, along with their negative health impacts, is why the fire fighting community has actively pushed to phase them out for safer, more effective strategies.
  • <h4>What can I do to reduce my family's exposure?</h4><p>1. Keep dust levels down in your home though cleaning and ventilation.<p> 2. Try to purchase products that are flame retardant free and look for products that contain cotton, polyester, and wool instead of pulyurethane foam.<p> 3. Call on your legislators to take action.<p>
Fight Against Flame Retardants

In addition to being toxic, flame retardant chemicals are ineffective - they do not reduce harm from fire. Maryland has been a national leader in phasing out some of the most dangerous chemical flame retardants. But new toxic chemicals continue to take their place, leading to an endless regulatory game of whack-a-mole.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has determined that chemical flame retardants don’t provide fire safety and recommends that manufacturers of furniture and children’s products stop using them.

In 2020, thanks to the advocacy of Maryland PIRG, Maryland fire fighters, and our partners, Maryland passed a law to ban the sale of furniture and children’s products containing chemical flame retardants starting June 1, 2021.

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Thousands of chemicals in household products haven't been tested for safety. Support our work to protect families from exposure to toxic chemicals.