Fueling Fires with Flame Retardant Bans

As the Consumer Product Safety Commission considers a petition calling for bans on a whole category of flame retardant chemicals, CEI fellow Angela Logomasini, Ph.D., warns in a new paper that such bans could threaten consumer safety. “Fanning the Flames: How Banning Flame Retardant Chemicals Puts Consumers at Risk,” a paper released today by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), explores the misguided science behind this petition and how the damaging policy could increase fire risks.

“Congress should pay attention and provide oversight as needed, because such bans or overly burdensome flame retardant regulations could undermine public health and safety and contribute to fire risks,” explains Logomasini. 

In July 2015, environmental activist groups, motivated by faulty claims that flame retardant chemicals pose health risks, petitioned the CPSC to ban certain uses for an entire class of the flame retardant chemicals, collectively referred to as “organohalogens.”

“Evidence is scant that trace human exposures to flame retardants through consumer products pose a significant public health risk, while fire risks are real, verifiable, and substantial,” says Logomasini.

Activist groups may have a legitimate complaint that government flammability standards essentially force, or at least strongly push, manufactures to apply chemical flame retardants, preempting consumers from buying products without these chemicals applied.  However, government bans are not the solution.

“A better approach would allow a more dynamic market process that relies on private standards and certification systems for flammability standards,” says Logomasini. “Such private systems allow for innovation and swift adjustments to technologies in accordance with improving information and technology, as well as changes in product designs, consumer demand, and lifestyles.”

View the paper “Fanning the Flame: How Banning Flame Retardant Chemicals Puts Consumers at Risk” here.