Prevent Harm stands with firefighters and their family members, public health and safety professionals, furniture business owners, and others calling for Maine legislators to support LD 182, a bill that would phase out so-called “flame retardants” in home furniture sold in Maine.
Toxic chemical flame retardants are linked to cancer, which is the number one cause of line-of-duty deaths among professional firefighters.
When they burn, some toxic chemical flame retardants become even more toxic, exposing firefighters to carcinogenic furans and dioxins through breathing and skin absorption. Firefighters also can be exposed to the chemicals from toxic soot covering the gear they wear, which many firehouses lack proper washing machines to clean.
The kicker? Safety experts say flame retardants are not needed to slow fires. They say it’s smoke detectors, sprinklers, and strong safety codes that save lives.
“As we say in the fire service, too many of our men and women are dying with our boots off, from cancer,” said John Martell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine. “This bill is a small step in the right direction of removing from our work unnecessary hazards that could contribute to carcinogenic exposures.”
Toxic chemical flame retardants also escape from furniture into airborne dust that children play in and families breathe. In addition to cancer, they’re linked to reproductive harm and harm to the developing brain.
Maine people have been joining firefighters in recent weeks to encourage bipartisan support for LD 182.
At its public hearing several weeks ago, Republican, Democrat, and Independent state legislators testified in favor of the bill, including former Republican Senator Linda Baker, of Topsham. She described losing her firefighter husband, Brunswick Fire Chief Skip Baker, to cancer 16 years ago, and said she wonders whether chemicals he was exposed to while fighting fires contributed to the rare cancer he suffered.
Senator Paul Davis (R-Sangerville) and Rep. Paul Stearns (R-Guilford) referenced Guilford of Maine, which has created jobs in Piscataquis County by manufacturing upholstery fabric without flame retardant chemicals, for which there’s growing demand.
Senator Dana Dow (R-Lincoln), who owns Dow Furniture, a Waldoboro-based furniture business, favors the bill, as does Ross Endicott, owner of Endicott Home Furnishings in Scarborough.
The bill also has the support of pubic health researchers and organizations including Dr. Courtney Carignan of the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, and Prevent Harm.