Mass. lawmakers sign off on ban of certain flame retardants used in furniture

State lawmakers agreed to ban certain chemicals that many people have in their bedding and furniture in their homes today.

For years, firefighters have sounded the alarm on the flame retardants used on furniture, saying that when they catch on fire, the fumes are toxic.

"There's nothing that shows these things have kept anyone safe from fires in this country," Boston Fire Deputy Chief Jay Fleming said.

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The situation is so concerning that Massachusetts firefighters have been pushing state lawmakers to pass a bill to ban certain chemicals.

This week, the House and Senate approved banning 11 flame retardants used in children's products, furniture and bedding.

Fleming, the city's former fire marshal, is an expert on the issue, and stressed the importance of the topic.

"It's a huge deal," Fleming said. "We're getting the kinds of cancers that have been associated with these chemicals. But it's not just firefighters. Everyone is being exposed to these chemicals."

Fleming said the bill would restrict all the common flame retardants that are used, but would also allow the state to review and regulate all new chemical flame retardants.

Firefighters say the chemicals play a role in how often they're diagnosed with cancer from years on the job, and officials said reports from Boston 25 News helped motivate lawmakers to approve the bill.

"I do think that the attention of bringing cancer to Boston firefighters, and firefighters in general, with your stories helped keep it in the public eye," Fleming told Boston 25 News reporter Blair Miller.  "When it's in the public eye, the legislature tends to give it higher priority."

Now, it's up to Gov. Charlie Baker to decide what will happen with the bill, and he has until January 11 to sign the bill into law.

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When Boston 25 News asked administration officials where he stood on the issue, officials provided a statement saying:

"The administration is reviewing a series of bills the legislature passed within the last few days. We don't typically comment on them before taking action on them. We will keep you in mind if/when there's action to it."

The American Chemistry Council, who represents manufacturers, took issue with the passing of the bill.

"Forcing through bills that remove an important layer of fire protection with little input and no debate does not support public safety and endangers the integrity of the legislative process," the council said.