New York state bans furniture, electronics that contain certain flame retardants

New York state Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation that will prohibit the sale of furniture, mattresses, and electronic displays containing what the governor said are certain dangerous flame retardant chemicals that have been linked to significantly elevated risks of neurological injury, hormone disruption, and cancer.

"Far too many household items contain toxic chemicals that put our children and first responders at risk for serious illness," said Gov. Hochul. "The furniture, mattresses, and electronics we buy should be safe, and with this legislation signed, we can now ensure that when these items are sold in New York, they will be free of hazardous materials."

This bill will regulate chemicals in upholstered furniture, mattresses, and electronic enclosures. It helps to define terms like halogenated chemical, organophosphorus chemical, and organonitrogen chemical. It prohibits the sale of any furniture that contains identified flame retardant chemicals. It also established a fine of up to $2,500 per day for repeated offenses.

New York has become the latest state to ban certain chemical flame retardants from upholstered and other furniture. Others with laws in effect include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. 

Flame retardants are a class of chemicals added to furniture, electronics, and building materials intended to help prevent fires. However, many flame retardants are associated with adverse health effects in animals and humans, including negative impacts on the immune system, infertility, cancer, and adverse effects on fetal and child development. Children are extremely susceptible to exposure to dangerous chemicals contained in flame retardants. Flame retardant chemicals are also difficult to break down, meaning they can remain persistent in the environment or a home for years. 

According to the governor's office, these toxic chemicals have limited value, if any, in preventing or suppressing fires. Other states that have enacted legislation have not ]experienced more fires or new safety concerns associated with the removal of those chemicals.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky said, "Nothing is more important than protecting the health of our children and firefighters from cancer-causing chemicals. By banning these toxic substances from everyday items in our homes, such as furniture and mattresses, we will be taking a major step in keeping our communities safe. I was proud to lead the fight to put our families and first responders' lives ahead of corporations' profits — and that is precisely what this law will do. Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this measure."

Assemblymember Steve Englebright said, "This new law will help protect first responders from unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals. Smoke inhalation is the number one cause of fire-related deaths. Unfortunately, flame retardants produce toxic chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide that can cause harm when inhaled. This is especially dangerous to firefighters. Additionally, the presence of flame retardants in mattresses, furniture, and the casings of electronic equipment endanger our families as these chemicals leach out of products and become part of household dust. We breathe in these chemicals and our children ingest them playing on the floor. The chemicals cause adverse health effects including cancer, infertility, and damage to our immune systems."


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).