An in-depth, multi-part investigative study, ‘Playing with Fire’ published by the Chicago Tribune has probed the toxic effects of flame retardants in the environment and the deceptive promotion of the use of flame retardants in baby products and many common household goods (furniture foam; plastic cabinets; computers and small appliance; consumer electronics; wire insulation; and back coatings for draperies and upholstery).

The study shows how the chemical and tobacco industry aligned with some in the fire service to rebuff the call for a “fire-safe” cigarette and the promotion of flame retardant furniture. The furniture which now contains substantial toxic materials.

The IAFF strongly believes that the passage of legislation addressing the elimination of brominated flame retardants (Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) including Penta-, Octa-, and Deca-BDEs) is a step in the right direction for improving the health and safety of our fire fighters and the citizens who are exposed to these toxic substances.

A number of our state and provincial associations and local unions have been addressing these exposures and we are working with federal, state and provincial governments to remove many of these chemicals from common products.

Over four years ago, as the result of a successful political action initiative led by the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, Washington State banned PBDEs pending a study of alternatives. Maine became the second U.S. state to ban PBDEs, thanks to an initiative led by the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine.

Other States, led by IAFF state and local affiliates, examining the PBDE issue include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia.  Canada has also acted to strength ban all PBDEs.