State Senate should pass bill on toxic fire retardants

Will a third time be the charm for legislation banning toxic flame retardants in children’s products and home furniture?

We can only hope.

Such legislation in the past has been criticized as overreaching, but the bipartisan-sponsored House Bill 1174 — the Toxic-Free Kids and Family Act — won overwhelming support in the House, passing 95-3. That suggests that either that concern has been addressed or that the issue has reached such critical mass that it now is something both sides of the aisle want to see become law. Now it’s up to the state Senate to follow suit.

HB 1174 would ban five flame retardants designated as toxic by the state and give the Department of Ecology authority to ban additional chemicals from being used as flame retardants if they are found to be toxic and safer alternatives are available.

Manufacturers once argued that there weren’t satisfactory substitutes for the toxic flame retardants they used, or that those substitutes would prohibitively raise prices for consumers.

That argument is losing steam as more companies have voluntarily stopped using toxic chemicals — which have been linked to cancer, genetic damage and developmental problems — and started using safer alternatives. A growing number of retailers are refusing to sell merchandise using toxic flame retardants.

Babies, who tend to experience the world by putting things in their mouth, are especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals in everything from sofas to car seats, child carriers and changing pads. The chemicals can be ingested or even escape into the air where we all breathe them. They leak into the environment through laundry water and have been found in wildlife including orcas and eagles.

The chemicals are also dangerous to firefighters when they’re exposed on the job. One of the bill’s prime sponsors — Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim — is a firefighter who has been exposed to carcinogenic toxins while battling house fires. This legislation would help decrease the amount of toxic chemicals first responders are exposed to.

Protecting the health of children and firefighters is a worthy goal. The Senate, where similar bills have stalled in the last two years, should pass this legislation.