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New Skinner Bill Opposes Flame Retardant in Building Insulation

Saying flame retardants in plastic wall insulation pose a health hazard, state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner introduced a bill Monday that would express the state Legislature's intent to enact laws reducing use of the retardants.

New Skinner Bill Opposes Flame Retardant in Building Insulation

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that seeks to reduce flame retardants in building insulation, her office announced Tuesday.

The bill – AB 127, introduced Monday and co-authored with Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lynwood) – targets fire retardants as a health hazard.

"Fire retardants are associated with numerous health effects including reproductive and developmental impacts, and the potential to cause cancer," said a news release from Skinner's office.

"California has recognized the toxicity of these chemicals when applied to furniture," Skinner said in the release. "Now we need to extend that recognition to the very buildings where we live and breathe."

Her bill would "state that it is the intent of the Legislature to enact subsequent legislation that would reduce the use of flame retardants in plastic foam building insulation," according to analysis by the Legislature Counsel.

Skinner said that existing regulations requiring fire-resistant building construction – such as a drywall thermal barrier – make flame retardants in insulation unnecessary.

"The use of plastic foam insulation – sprayed into the wall cavities of homes, apartments and commercial buildings – has increased to make buildings more energy efficient," the news release said. "However, an antiquated 1960’s U.S. building code requires that plastic insulation meet certain fire safety standards, which has led to the widespread use of chemical flame retardants."

The release also quoted Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute: "Unfortunately, the foam insulation that makes our buildings more energy efficient usually contains harmful flame retardant chemicals that don’t actually increase fire safety. Skinner’s proposed legislation will make foam insulation healthier and less expensive without reducing fire safety.”

Skinner singled out two ingredients in flame retardants – HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane), which she said is scheduled to become the 22nd chemical banned in 180 countries under the Stockholm Convention, and TCPP or “tris” (tris (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate), which she said is a potential carcinogen.

The U.S. Green Building Council supports the bill, her office said.

Skinner, a Democrat, represents the 15th district, which ranges along the western side of the East Bay from North Oakland and Piedmont in the south to Hercules in the north.

She introduced a bill on Dec. 20, AB 48, to regulate ammunition sales in California.

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