By Kathy Curtis, Executive Director
Years ago, when New York was among the first states to ban penta- and octa-BDE, two toxic flame retardant chemicals in foam-containing products, little did we know they would be replaced with equally-toxic chlorinated Tris chemicals. Now, due to our efforts, Governor Cuomo has taken a step to make all New Yorkers – especially the youngest – a little safer. He signed a bill into law to expand the definition of Tris in the Tris-free Children and Babies Act of 2011 to include TDCPP – a cancer-causing and brain development-altering chemical – and ban it in children’s products sold in our state.
Backing the bill at our urging were over a dozen organizations, including the New York State Professional Fire Fighters, who in recent years have actively opposed the use of flame retardant chemicals in many residential products. Their opposition stems from the failure of these toxic chemicals to provide meaningful fire safety benefit, and from the fact that they make any building fire more toxic for residents and fire fighters alike.
Because we garnered support from fire fighters, health professionals, environmental health and justice advocates, children’s health advocates and others, the Assembly passed the bill unanimously, and it enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support (or should we stay, tri-partisan?) in the Senate. Apparently, protecting babies and children from needless exposure to toxic chemicals is something we can all agree on.
TDCPP was voluntarily pulled from children’s pajamas in the 1970s because it was shown to penetrate the skin and mutate DNA. Since then we’ve learned a lot about the chemical, and none of it good. We also know that it is common in children’s products. Washington State tested a wide range of consumer products, and found both TDCPP and TCEP – the two chemicals now banned by New York State – in children’s products including a crib pad, a booster seat, and a foam chair.
"No parent should have to second guess whether the toy or car seat they buy for their child is safe," Governor Cuomo said. "This new law will not only provide additional protections for young children, it gives peace of mind to parents who will now know that common childcare products purchased in New York will not contain this dangerous chemical.”
The bill was sponsored by outgoing Environmental Conservation Committee chairs in each house – Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) and Assemblymember Bob Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) brought matching legislation to expand the original Tris-Free Children and Babies Act, which they had both sponsored when it passed in 2011. The original bill was a major priority for Clean and Healthy New York, and Governor Cuomo’s signature made it the first official Tris ban in the country upon which all subsequent bans were predicated.
This expands Clean and Healthy New York’s longstanding body of effective work on flame retardant chemicals – from years of work to demonstrate safer alternatives to decaBDE through the New York State Task Force on Flame Retardant Safety, to our leadership of the national Alliance for Toxic Free Fire Safety. Bans on chemical classes are important steps in the broader move to protect people from dangerous, unnecessary chemicals used in everyday products.
The Governor’s announcement upon signing the expanded Tris-Free Children and Babies Act signals his intent to address toxic chemicals in children’s products more broadly.
U. S. Senator Charles Schumer introduced federal legislation we worked to develop with his office, to ban ten of the worst flame retardant chemicals. All in all, an impressive week for New York. In addition to supporting this federal effort, Clean and Healthy New York and our allies will advance state legislation in 2015 to restrict these and other toxic chemicals in children’s products and upholstered furniture.