Law Protects all New Yorkers by removing cancer-causing chemicals from new household furniture, mattresses & electronic enclosures
Guest Editorial by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York
The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) applauds Gov. Kathy Hochul for signing legislation that bans carcinogenic flame-retardant chemicals in household items, furniture, and electronic enclosures.
FASNY has made this legislation part of its proactive agenda for the last eight years. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, passed both houses of the legislature earlier in 2021.
Flame retardants are in everyday items such as TVs, phones and mattresses because it was believed that they slowed or prevented the start or growth of a fire. Despite their stated purpose, these flame retardants are not effective at preventing or slowing fires. Further, when burned, they emit extremely toxic smoke and fumes, which endanger both firefighters and the people they are working to save as they inhale them. In infants and pregnant women – who ingest these chemicals through normal everyday dust – links have been found to serious health effects, from cancer and reproductive issues to developmental disabilities.
“Firefighters are regularly exposed to flame-retardant toxins in the line of duty, resulting in far higher cancer rates than those in the general population,” said FASNY President John P. Farrell. “By signing this legislation, Gov. Hochul is protecting both the state’s citizens and firefighters. We are pleased to see New York state take an important step forward in eliminating harmful and hazardous chemicals from the environment.”
Kaminsky, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “Nothing is more important than protecting the health of our children and firefighters from cancer-causing chemicals. By banning these toxic substances from everyday items in our homes, such as furniture and mattresses, we will be taking a major step in keeping our communities safe. I was proud to lead the fight to put our families and first responders’ lives ahead of corporations’ profits – and that is precisely what this law will do.”
Englebright said, “This new law will help protect first responders from exposure to harmful chemicals. Flame retardants produce toxic chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide that, when inhaled, contributes to the No. 1 cause of fire-related deaths, which is smoke inhalation. This is especially dangerous for firefighters. Additionally, the presence of these dangerous chemicals in household furnishings endanger our families, as the chemicals leach out of products into household dust causing chronic exposure when we breath and play with our children in our homes. These chemicals are known to cause adverse health effects including cancer, infertility, and damage to our immune systems. I wish to thank FASNY for working closely with me to create and support this lifesaving new law.”
“We applaud Gov. Hochul, Sen. Kaminsky, Assembly member Englebright, and the State Legislature for supporting this important bill,” said Leonardo Trasande, M.D., M.P.P., the Jim G. Hendrick, MD Professor of Pediatrics, and Professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. “This is an important step forward in not only improving our environment and safety standards but, more importantly, ensuring the well-being of our firefighters who work tirelessly to protect us.”
Under the Family and Firefighter Protection Act, the use of certain flame-retardant chemicals in furniture and mattresses and the use of certain flame-retardant chemicals in electronic casings is banned. Similar bans have been enacted in states such as California, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island. The European Union has banned them from electronics.
FASNY Kicks Off 150th Anniversary Year With Update to Name
In 1872, a group of firemen gathered in upstate New York and founded the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. As FASNY prepared for the 150th anniversary of the association in 2022, the association’s leadership not only looked back at its history, but also began planning for the next 150 years.
“FASNY and the volunteer fire service have changed dramatically since our humble beginnings in 1872. We are very proud of our history,” Farrell said. “The presidents and the board of directors view this special anniversary as an opportunity to honor our past, while simultaneously positioning FASNY for an even better future.”
Over the years, FASNY’s logos and symbols have evolved with time, but one thing remained a constant – the association’s name. At the December meeting of the board of directors, a motion was passed unanimously to update the association’s name from its historical 1872 origins to The Firefighters Association of the State of New York.
“We all felt it was time,” Farrell said. “The volunteer fire service has grown and changed greatly from the late 19th century. While our original name was based on the fire service of 1872, our new name positions us for the 21st century.”
First Vice President Edward Tase added, “We did not make this change lightly. We know and respect the great history of our association. We also know that our name, like our logos, symbols and actions, must represent today’s volunteer fire service.”
The association has already begun the process of updating its logos and signage to reflect the new name. As with any major change of this nature, it may take some time before it is in place in all applications.
Founded in 1872, FASNY represents the interests of the 85,000 volunteer firefighters in New York state. For more information, visit www.fasny.com.