Chemical Industry Trying to Influence CA Assemblymembers — Please Help!

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

I am so sorry to post a personal pet-issues diary so soon after registering to the site. But I just learned about this website in the last two weeks at the Netroots Nation Convention in Pittsburgh. What a gem!

Who am I? I am a 32-year-old mother and activist who lives in Berkeley, California. I run a progressive mothering blog called MotherTalkers and I am currently a contractor for the family organization

I wouldn’t already be bugging you if the issue I was working on did not pertain to California families and was not important. I wanted to let you know that a bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno that would help rid certain baby products of toxic flame retardants is about to die a silent death unless we pick up the phone and call our Assemblymembers.

Our immediate challenge to keep the bill, SB 772, alive is to change the votes of three Assemblymembers who voted against it in the appropriations committee last week. These members — Charles Calderon, Connie Conway, Diane Harkey, Jeff Miller and Audra Strickland – will have a chance to save this bill by changing their votes when the committee reconsiders it this Wednesday.

The following Assemblymembers, by the way, abstained from voting: Mike Davis, Michael Duvall, Felipe Fuentes, Isadore Hall, Jose Solorio, and Tom Torlakson.

Please help us save SB 772!

The chemical industry has actually gone so far as to organize a “front group” called the “Citizens for Fire Safety” that has hired 3 high-priced lobbying firms that control the purse strings to millions of dollars in campaign donations. They have spent quite a bit of time in Sacramento lately as they have much to lose in not having their products required in baby products.

California is the only state in the country to require toxic flame retardants in the foam of all furniture, including places where our babies sleep. Not surprisingly, a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found the flame retardant penta-BDE in the dust of California homes at four to 10 times the concentrations found elsewhere in the U.S., and 200 times higher than in Europe. It also found that Californians have twice the concentration of the chemical in their blood as people who live elsewhere in the United States.

SB 772 would give manufacturers of baby items like bassinets, strollers, nursing pillows and high chairs, the choice of whether or not to include these toxic chemicals in their products. It would also require the manufacturers to mention in the exterior packaging of products without flame retardants that they do not meet California’s fire safety standards so consumers have the choice to purchase products with the toxins.

Despite the emotional and inflammatory information spread by the chemical industry, there is no evidence that flame retardant chemicals in foam has shown any measurable benefit in terms of actual fire protection. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), while fire deaths declined by 38 percent in California from 1980 to 1999, the decline in fire deaths was similar or even greater in states that do not require the toxins at all. Considering that most victims of fires die from smoke inhalation and not the actual flames, alternative fire-fighting measures like smoke detectors and sprinkler systems have proven far more effective.

What is certain is that research has shown flame retardants can cause a host of life-threatening illnesses, including endocrine problems, thyroid problems, cancer, and neurological disorders like hyperactivity. And contrary to what “Citizens for Fire Safety” has said, it is low-income residents and communities of color who are most likely to be exposed to these chemicals and fall victim to these diseases as they purchase products laden with the toxins at the big box stores. Other communities can often opt out of toxin-laden baby products by purchasing more expensive imported or toxic-free “organic” product lines of baby products. Furthermore older or second-hand products are more likely to have crumbly foam that will escape and cause the greatest health hazard.

Let’s not let SB 772 die. What can we do to pass it? Call, e-mail or fax a personal letter to your Assemblymember’s office! Let him or her know why this bill is important to you. You can look up your district and Assemblymember here.

Your support will show the entire Assembly that the public is watching their votes. A phone call will help pressure members on the Assembly Appropriations Committee into doing the right thing. Contact your Assemblymember today!

Thank you for your commitment to protecting our children from toxic chemicals.