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NAFRA Comments on New York Legislation Restricting Flame Retardants in Electronic Displays

Removing This Critical Layer of Fire Safety Could Negatively Impact New York Residents and Businesses

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Jennifer Garfinkel
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 3, 2021) — The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) issued the following statement in response to New York Governor Kathy Hochul signing legislation (S.4630-B), which will make New York the first state to prohibit the sale of organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) in electronic displays, such as televisions and computer monitors. The restrictions are currently set to take effect on January 1, 2024, and apply to electronic displays for use in residential settings.

“The use of flame retardants in enclosures can have a dramatic effect on the flammability of electronic devices by making them more resistant to external ignition.[1] More protective fire standards – which product manufacturers can meet by using flame retardants – can dramatically affect overall fire conditions, including ignition development, smoke generation, escape time, and time available for emergency personnel response.[2]

“Safety is a top priority for our industry, and we believe consumers deserve to have confidence that the products they buy are safe for their intended use. Our members invest significant resources in product and environmental stewardship and advocate for advancing the safety of the products they produce and sell. S.4630-B fails to consider overall product safety and the important role flame retardants can play in helping protect consumers from a variety of hazards.

“Restricting the use of an entire class of chemicals without scientific justification is deeply disappointing and could potentially put residents and businesses at increased fire risk throughout New York State. Fire safety is a critical public health issue, and flame retardants are an important tool to help reduce fires, fire deaths, and property damage.

“New York’s approach regulating OFRs as a single class goes against the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), that this diverse group of chemistries cannot be treated as a single class for purposes of assessment. The best available science should be used in developing regulations to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach that is neither scientifically accurate, nor appropriate.

“Additionally, this bill potentially conflicts with federal regulations for chemicals, including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The legislation puts New York State at odds with regulatory authorities who use the most relevant science and approaches to support the safety and sustainability of existing chemistries. Moreover, implementation of this legislation will be burdensome and difficult to enforce, as the legislation calls for OFR restrictions in electronic displays only when used in residential settings.

“The New York Legislature and Gov. Hochul heard important viewpoints and concerns from a broad range of stakeholders including manufacturers, insurers, fire safety experts, and other impacted entities, yet still proceeded with legislation that could limit the tools product manufacturers have available to meet performance and sustainability goals while helping keep consumers safe.

“Product manufacturers include specific flame retardants in their products based on a product’s attributes, properties, use, and potential ignition threats to meet safety standards and reduce the risk of fire to consumers. Last year alone, CPSC recalled over 3.6 million units due to fire hazards, so it is important to assess product safety and design as part of an overall effort to protect consumers.

“Since the introduction of strict fire safety standards in the U.S. — including the use of flame retardants — fires have been reduced by nearly 50 percent, from 734,000 in 1980 to 379,500 in 2020.[3]  Despite this fire risks remain in New York. In 2018, the last year that data is publicly available, there were 44,620 residential fires, which resulted in 831 civilian injuries, 93 civilian deaths, and $79,693,328 in property loss.[4] As fire remains a risk there continues to be a need for fire reduction technologies such as OFRs.”

 

1 Blais, Matthew, and Karen Carpenter. “Combustion characteristics of flat panel televisions with and without fire retardants in the casing.” Fire Technology 51.1 (2015): 19-40. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10694-014-0420-7.
2 M. Blais, K. Carpenter, and K. Fernandez. “Comparative Room Burn Study of Furnished Rooms from the United Kingdom, France and the United States.” Fire Technology (2019): 1-26. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10694-019-00888-8.
3 NFPA, Fire Loss in the United States During 2020, September 2021, https://www.nfpa.org/~/media/fd0144a044c84fc5baf90c05c04890b7.ashx
 4 New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Fire Prevention and Control, http://www.dhses.ny.gov/ofpc/fire-incident-reporting-system/fire-in-new-york/2018structure.pdf

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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