Anchorage Assembly Approves Landmark Ban on Flame Retardants in Consumer Products

Four classes of ineffective, toxic flame retardant chemicals are banned from furniture, mattresses, and juvenile products

Persistence of ACAT’s supporters and partners invaluable in winning this protection for  firefighters’ and children’s health

With a unanimous vote, the Anchorage Assembly passed  Assembly Ordinance 2019-15(S), which prohibits certain consumer products containing flame retardant chemicals, at the March 19 assembly meeting. This landmark public health ordinance now stands among the strongest laws in the nation.

“One of the core values of ACAT is the elimination of chemicals that harm environmental and human health and replacement with safe alternatives,” said Pamela Miller, ACAT Executive Director. “There is considerable peer-reviewed scientific information about the adverse health effects of flame-retardant chemicals, including cancer and neurodevelopmental and reproductive toxicity. This ordinance moves our city one step closer to eliminating the unnecessary use of harmful flame retardants in all household products. We appreciate the work of the Anchorage Assembly to achieve its passage,” she said.

Many community groups and individuals testified in favor of the ordinance, including the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association, Alaska Professional Fire Fighters Association, community councils, parents, nurses, chemists, and doctors. “Firefighters across the nation are leading this movement to ban flame retardants,” said Su Chon, Civic Engagement Coordinator with ACAT, “and they were at the forefront of our effort to pass the ordinance in Anchorage. Firefighters bear a high burden of disease as a result of their occupational exposures and suffer higher rates of cancers. Firefighters risk their lives to protect all of us and this is one way that we can give back as a community.”

Former Anchorage firefighter Carol Bacon described her struggle with a rare blood cancer and almost $1 million cost for treatment. Ms. Bacon stated: “I support the ‘Protecting the Health of Children and Firefighters’ ordinance because it is a preventive step to address the cancer epidemic that has become a fate of my occupation.”

In addition to firefighters, many health care providers for children also supported the ordinance, including Samantha Englishoe, a local registered nurse who works with maternal and child health and is a board member of ACAT. “Exposure to health-harming and unnecessary chemicals goes against the public health message I try to convey. And daily contact with widespread chemicals found in consumer products in our homes, schools, businesses, and hospitals should be emphasized as an urgent public health issue in Alaska.

It is clear that in order to protect public health more effectively, we need policies that eliminate or reduce the causes of potential health problems. This is known as primary prevention,” said Ms. Englishoe.

The ordinance bans the manufacture and distribution of children’s products, furniture, and mattresses containing harmful flame-retardant chemicals. Responsible manufacturers are already using a range of alternatives, including the use of barrier technologies and naturally fire-retardant materials to provide the necessary safety without the use of harmful chemicals.

Even though some manufacturers are doing the right thing, ACAT has long held that the burden should not be on consumers to identify and understand dangerous chemicals. “With this new city law, when it comes to toxic flame retardants, consumers will no longer need a degree in chemistry to avoid buying products with harmful chemicals in these three categories,” added Su Chon.

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