California Makes a Move on Toxic Flame Retardants

By Jenesse Miller
California League of Conservation Voters

The writing is on the wall: we're going to beat the chemical industry in California's fight over toxic flame retardants.

For years, advocates for Californians' health and environment have worked to change archaic regulations that encourage the use of highly toxic chemicals in furniture, baby products and other consumer products in the name of fire safety. The pervasive use of these chemicals has never been proven to save lives, has made home fires more dangerous for victims and firefighters, and has put millions of people who will never encounter a fire in their home at risk -- particularly young children.

In Fight With Monsanto, Mother Nature Doesn't Quit

By Jim Hightower

Rather than find ways to cooperate with the natural world, America's agribusiness giants reach for the next quick fix in a futile effort to overpower nature. Their attitude is that if brute force isn't working, they're probably not using enough of it.

Monsanto, for example, has banked a fortune by selling a corn seed that it genetically manipulated to produce corn plants that won't die when sprayed with the Roundup toxic weedkiller. Not coincidentally, Monsanto also happens to manufacture Roundup. It profits from the seed and from the huge jump in Roundup sales that the seed generates. Slick.

Take Toxics Out of Our Furniture

By Richard Holober
Consumer Federation of California

Californians are exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in our homes, thanks to a 37 year old state furniture regulation. While the regulation never served its intended goal of reducing fires in our homes, its legacy of toxic harm lives on. Click here to ask the Governor to take toxics out of our furniture.

In May 2012, a remarkable investigative series in the Chicago Tribune exposed decades of lies, coercion and influence peddling by flame retardant manufacturers. The report describes how a chemical industry front group paid a medical school professor to travel to Sacramento to testify on two separate occasions before the state legislature. This burn doctor described in vivid detail how he held in his hands a dying seven week old infant who was horribly burned when a pillow she was lying on burst into flames when a candle ignited it. He lectured lawmakers that the pillow was not chemically treated, and warned that changing the California regulation would only lead to more tragic deaths.

There was one problem with the doctor’s heart-wrenching story - he made it up.

Pennsylvania Doctors on Fracking: Our Lips Are Sealed

By Kathleen Peine

There’s something buried in a new Pennsylvania law and it’s every bit as toxic as the chemicals used to unearth natural gas through that process called fracking. Lurking in that law is a form of enforced ignorance.

And as Will Rogers said, “When ignorance gets started, it knows no bounds.”

In this law there is a provision that essentially gags physicians when they want to tell their patients what particular chemicals they have been exposed to, should they become ill from exposure to fracking chemicals. The doctors will be required to sign confidentiality agreements in order to find out the components in their quest to treat stricken individuals. The law is advanced as a protection of proprietary secrets……as if we’re talking about New Coke here.

Fracking Impact On Water Worries Californians

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Earlier this year, the oil company Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) blasted water and chemicals more than one and half miles into the earth to force oil embedded in a sandstone formation to gush to the surface.

The process – known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – has been debated in many U.S. communities where oil and gas deposits have been identified in recent years. But PXP wasn’t fracking in the much-touted Marcellus Shale on the East Coast, where much of the controversy over fracking has centered. It was fracking two test wells in urban Los Angeles, where 300,000 people live within a three-mile radius.

The drilling was done less than a year after community and environmental groups reached a settlement with PXP, after complaining for years about pollution from the site.

Confirmation Puts Focus on State's Toxic Waste

By Judy Dugan and Doug Heller
Consumer Watchdog

The underbelly of industry in California is toxic waste, from the arcane chemicals used to manufacture computers to contaminated engine oil left behind after an oil change at a service station. The state has strict rules and regulations on how such waste can be disposed of or recycled – governing storage, transportation and reprocessing to protect air, soil and water. In theory, families should be safe even if a toxic waste producer is within spitting distance of their neighborhood or school.

Burning Irony: Flame Retardants Might Create Deadlier Fires

By Brett Israel
Environmental Health News

In one of the deadliest nightclub fires in American history, 100 people died at a concert in Rhode Island nearly a decade ago. But the biggest killer wasn't the flames; it was lethal gases released from burning sound insulation and other plastics. In a fatal bit of irony, attempts to snuff fires like this catastrophic one could be making some fires even more deadly.

New research suggests that chemicals – brominated and chlorinated flame retardants – that are added to upholstered furniture and other household items to stop the spread of flames are increasing emissions of two poisonous gases. In one experiment, nylon containing the flame retardant brominated polystyrene released six times more hydrogen cyanide when set afire than the same material containing a halogen-free flame retardant. Hydrogen cyanide, used in the Nazi gas chambers, is 35 times more deadly than carbon monoxide. During a fire, it can kill in as little as one minute.

Have Toxic Couches Finally Met Their Match?

By Valerie Pacino

Eureka! The California legislature will this spring consider a bill to modernize the 12-second rule, the state’s obscure furniture flammability standard that fails to protect us from fires even while it poisons homes across North America. Over the past seven months, we’ve described this scientifically discredited standard; provided nine (adorable) reasons to modernize the standard; refuted Big Chem’s star witness; and uncovered the engine of toxic political influence that shuns fire safety in favor of profits.

This time, we bring hopeful tidings.

Your Toxic Couch: New California Legislation Will Address Chemicals in Flame Retardants Found in Furniture

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Where there’s smoke – fire is still likely after California’s out-dated 12-second rule. And toxic flame retardants in your bed or couch may harm your family anyhow.

Those worrisome factors are behind a bill introduced Friday by California Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, seeking to change the state’s fire-safety testing standards for furniture.

Currently, furniture makers have to use stuffing and foams treated with flame retardants to meet California’s current rule. Under an obscure state law known as Technical Bulletin 117, furniture must withstand being ignited by on open flame for 12 seconds, even though fire-safety experts have determined that even a smoldering cigarette taking more than 12 ticks of the clock can set furniture ablaze.

Toxic Money: Big Chem, Dirty Politics, and the Poison in Your Couch

By Valerie Pacino

Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. Big Chem knows that politics can be business by other means. You’ve got to hand it to them: they’ve used politics with astounding effectiveness to secure their bottom line. The result is literally toxic for the rest of us.

The chemical industry spent nearly $5 million a year over the past five years on lobbying and campaign contributions in California. That’s a lot of money for one industry and one state. On the other hand, it’s a pittance, considering the payback: by defending an obscure and ineffective fire-safety regulation, the industry extends its North American stronghold in a market worth billions of dollar of sales each year. That’s one of the best returns-on-investment imaginable.