Friedman votes to protect children and first responders from harmful chemicals

BOSTON – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in voting to ban certain toxic chemical flame retardants from children’s products, including toys and nap mats, as well as in upholstered furniture, window dressings, carpeting, and bedding made or sold in the state.

The bill, S2338, would establish an initial list of eleven chemical flame retardants that would be banned. The list is based on scientific research, which shows that exposure can lead to an increased risk of cancer, neurological issues, fertility problems and other health concerns. If home furnishings and children’s products contain any of the listed chemicals before the ban goes into effect, manufacturers would be required to notify retailers.

“Research has shown us that using these products in the midst of a fire do not work as marketed and can cause significant harm to our first responders,” said Friedman. “Moreover, we should never be in the business of exposing our children to dangerous substances often found in their toys. I applaud Senator Creem for leading on this initiative, and commend the Senate as a whole for taking this commonsense step to protect the public.”

Foam products, including toys, are the most likely items to be treated with flame retardant chemicals.  Over time, the chemicals can become dust disbursed through the home and then inhaled or absorbed by children, pets and other family members.

The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts support this legislation and have raised special concerns because of the heightened health risks when products with chemical flame retardants are exposed to high heat and combustion. Environmental groups including the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and the Silent Spring Institute also strongly support this legislation.

Chemical compounds used as flame retardants can change as chemists develop new formulas. The Senate bill calls for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to update the list of prohibited chemicals by reviewing new flame retardants in consultation with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell and other state agencies at least every three years.    

Legislation banning these flame retardants was enacted at the end of 2018, but ultimately it did not become law. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where similar legislation was filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge).

To track the progress of the bill, visit