Must we wait for proof of ills before banning flame retardants?

Thank you to David Abel for highlighting the disproportionate health burden that firefighters bear in “Ban sought on flame retardants” (Metro, April 25). Robert Simon, of the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical companies, misses key information about the chemicals the state is now considering banning.

Of the 12 flame-retardant chemicals included in the proposed legislation, none has received a pass for safety. These chemicals already either have been banned by the US Environmental Protection Agency, are being considered for effects on human health and potential regulation by the EPA, or have not been studied enough to make a determination.

Simon asserts that there is no so-called proof that these chemicals cause cancer among firefighters. However, we know that these chemicals are found in the bodies of firefighters and that some of these chemicals cause cancers in animal studies.

To satisfy industry’s call for proof, I suppose one could conduct an experiment in humans and expose half of them to high levels of flame retardants, and then wait to see if the people get cancer years later. Who wants to sign up for that?


Kathryn Rodgers
Staff scientist
Silent Spring Institute

The institute is a nonprofit research organization advancing science on cancer prevention and environmental health.