Raising the Alarm: the Case for Better Flame Retardant Regulation in Canada

A new ELC report prepared for the Victoria Fire Fighters Association shows the need for federal action in order to protect Canadian consumers, fire fighters, and the environment.

The report, Raising the Alarm: the Case for Better Flame Retardant Regulation in Canada, provides six comprehensive recommendations to improve the regulation of flame retardant chemicals, explains why new regulations are necessary, and gives examples of how other jurisdictions have changed laws to better protect the public.

Surprisingly, flame retardant chemicals applied to household items during manufacturing make no significant difference in preventing house fires or increasing fire safety. However, when flame retardant chemicals burn, a fire’s smoke becomes up to 10 times more toxic. Firefighters, who are already facing drastically higher rates of cancer than the general population, are particularly at risk from these toxic substances when attending house fires.

Chemical flame retardants are found in many household consumer products, including furniture, electronics, and children’s toys. They accumulate in the environment and in the human body, where they can cause serious health problems such as cancer, endocrine disruptions, immune disorders, reproductive problems, and low IQ in children. Escaping through stormwater from discarded furniture on the roadside and making their way into rivers and the ocean, flame retardant chemicals contaminate marine life and, through damage caused to reproduction capacity, threaten the survival of orcas.