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Flame Retardants at Issue

By Patricia Callahan and Sam RoeTribune reporters

3:34 p.m. CDT, May 10, 2012

Reacting with outrage to the Chicago Tribune’s investigation of the deceptive tactics that have fueled the rise of toxic flame retardants in Americans’ bodies, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin on Thursday demanded answers from two federal agencies, asking them to act aggressively to rid homes of chemicals that pose health risks but don’t stave off fires.

“The Tribune investigation makes it clear that this life-threatening issue has been swamped by self-serving chemical companies and lack of aggressive oversight by our government,” Durbin told the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Tribune’s four-part series this week, “Playing with Fire,” documented a decades-long campaign of deception by industry interests that has loaded the furniture and electronics in American homes with pounds of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility. The typical American baby is born with the highest recorded concentration of these chemicals among infants in the world.

“The Playing with Fire series is really a challenge to us in Washington to get serious about these flame retardant chemicals and the impact they’re having on babies and children,” Durbin said in an interview. “The series makes it clear that there has been a great deal of misinformation and deception promulgated by chemical companies, tobacco companies, lobbyists and others that has created a fear factor that has led to the overuse of some of these chemicals.”

He asked the Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission why her agency hasn’t formalized furniture flammability rules the agency proposed in 2008. If enacted, those rules would likely reduce the amount of flame retardants in American homes because the federal tests can be met without the use of chemicals and would trump California regulations that now guide most manufacturers.

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune