scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Mass. push to ban toxic flame retardants is welcomed

The bill would apply to materials used in bedding, furniture, and children’s products.AFP/Getty Images/File

Measure would protect children and honor memory of fallen workers

Every Workers Memorial Day, in April, the names of those who died at work are read at a memorial ceremony in front of the State House. Among those names are firefighters who died of cancer and other diseases from recognized exposures on the job. Governor Baker has a bill on his desk this week, ready to be signed, that would ban furniture, bedding, and children’s products containing certain toxic flame-retardant chemicals (“Bill takes aim at toxic flame retardants,” Page One, Jan. 5). As the Globe reported, there is plenty of science to show that these chemicals should come out of furnishings and clothing.


These materials pose risk not only to those fighting fires but also to children, who can absorb the chemicals through their clothing or just by sitting on their living room couch. Complaints by industry associations are expected, but they ring hollow, since companies are always reformulating products as a result of consumer pressure or other national and international regulations.

The reporter cited former firefighter and state senator Kenneth J. Donnelly, who died of brain cancer, in 2017. I too want to recognize Donnelly, and I hope that his foresight in championing this bill will be brought to fruition with the governor’s signature this week.

Tolle Graham

Jamaica Plain

In face of science, industry interests spread misinformation

The science is there on toxic flame retardants. The measure that passed the Legislature last week would ban the retail sale of certain products containing any of 11 toxic chemicals.

Powerful industry special interests, who profit from the use of these carcinogens, are spreading misinformation and claiming they were blindsided. The truth is that many public hearings were held over the last eight years, and this bill has undergone a lengthy process of negotiation, redrafting, and stakeholder outreach.

Worse, these same special interests do not question or refute the key points: namely, that these chemicals are in fact both toxic and unnecessary. Fire safety tests have consistently failed to demonstrate that these flame retardants are even effective at curbing fire-related deaths.


Moreover, these chemicals have been scientifically linked to cancer and childhood developmental issues and behavioral health problems. They are found in treated foams used in household furniture, such as mattresses and couches, and plush toys for children. Firefighters are also put at great risk when these chemicals combust.

The tragic consequences continue to mount. Over the past two years, 570 active Massachusetts firefighters were diagnosed with cancer, and 198 have died. Those who recovered missed months of work and incurred significant medical costs.

The public should know what’s at stake here: either siding with companies with vested interests and their lobbyists — who don’t dispute the science of this bill while continuing to move the goalpost — or siding with firefighters, children, and families. We urge Governor Baker to do the latter and sign this bill into law.

Senator Cynthia Stone Creem

Democrat of Newton

Representative Marjorie C. Decker

Democrat of Cambridge

This measure was first filed by Senator Creem eight years ago and by Representative Decker four years ago.

Public, exposed to risk for years, is the true ‘stakeholder’ here

The bill to ban potentially toxic flame retardants is way overdue. Industry has had its way for more than 40 years.

It is hypocritical that Robert Rio, of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, would say that essentially thousands of manufacturers and retailers had “no opportunity for stakeholder input.” The real stakeholders are the public who are taking all the risks. And we vastly outnumber the “stakeholders” who have held the floor and blocked this common-sense legislation for decades.


Norah Dooley