- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A group of legislators has approved a bill that would ban four types of flame-retardant chemicals in Minnesota.

Although firefighters once supported the chemicals being added to furniture and other products to make them burn more slowly, they now say those chemicals are making firefighters sick. Firefighters say studies have shown that when those chemicals burn, they produce cancer-causing agents that can be absorbed through the skin.

“Firefighting is a dangerous business, and we all accept that,” said Chris Parsons, president of Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters. “But what we cannot accept and stand by for is the needless risk to our health from many of these flame retardants in use today.”

St. Paul fire Capt. Steve Shapira, a 17-year veteran who said he has no family history of cancer, was diagnosed just over a year ago with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“When I started, we were concerned about heart attacks, burns and accidents of all types. Now those concerns have been dwarfed by cancer,” he said.

Researcher Susan Shaw, a public health professor at the State University of New York-Albany, testified in favor of the bill, arguing that the incidence of cancer among firefighters in the U.S. has increased over time.

“Fires today are much more toxic than they have been in the past,” she said. “That’s because of the amount of synthetics and foam, furniture and plastics we have in the home, and also because of the chemical treatment of those products, so there’s been a change, and the change is about chemicals - chemical use.”

The House Commerce Committee approved the scaled back version of an original bill seeking to ban 10 different flame-retardant chemicals, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1IyPEOc ) reported.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Jeff Howe, said he plans to push for a floor vote in the final days of the current legislative session, which ends next Monday.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org


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