The Minnesota House and Senate enthusiastically signed a bill into law recently that will ban certain flame-retardant chemicals found in mattresses and a few different household products. On May 23, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law a bill that will also ban the use of class B firefighting foam that contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for testing or training starting July 2020, unless it’s required by federal law. However, the class B foams wouldn’t be banned for use in emergency firefighting or fire prevention, as they are considered effective in putting out oil fires. The law also requires that any “release of class B firefighting foam containing PFAS must be reported to the state’s fire reporting system within 24 hours.” Prior to the bill, there was no such tracking.
Those For the Bill and Those Against the Bill
According to an article on MPRnews.org, the bill bans the “manufacture and sale of mattresses, children’s products, upholstered furniture and residential textiles, such as window coverings, that contain certain flame retardants.” While there was some contentious debate surrounding the bill with chemical manufacturers opposing it, the bill passed by an overwhelming majority, and among those lobbying for the bill were firefighters, who are concerned about what these chemicals might be doing to their health. Studies have shown firefighters have a 14% greater chance of dying from cancer than the general population, and breathing in the noxious fumes from dangerous chemicals for many years wreaks havoc on a firefighter’s health.
Chemical manufacturers opposed the bill saying the flame retardants in question are important for suppressing fires. They argued that Minnesota shouldn’t take action until the federal government weighs in on safety regulations. Considering how Trump’s EPA and other agencies have moved at a snail’s pace on other matters concerning PFAS and other contaminants, that could take a while.
Specifics of the Bill
Prior to passing the bill, some changes had to be made; one such change was limiting the bill to the flame retardant chemicals used on residential furniture. The original bill included office and hotel furniture. Another compromise pushed the bill’s effective date back to give manufacturers and fire departments more time to make the necessary changes mandated by the passing of the bill.
The final version of the bill prohibits manufacturers from selling or distributing mattresses, children’s products, upholstered furniture, and residential textiles containing more than 1,000 parts per million of certain chemicals starting in July 2021. However, retailers are prohibited from selling those products beginning in July 2022, although selling used products containing the restricted chemicals is still allowed.
The flame-retardant chemicals bill is not the first signed by Minnesota’s new governor. In March, Walz signed his first two bills: one having to do with the state vehicle registration system, and one that provides $102 million for statewide public construction projects. At the signing of the latest bill, the Democratic governor paid tribute to Democrats and Republicans who worked to reach compromises before the end of the May 20 legislative session deadline.