In children's products, such as changing pads and car seats, flame-retardant chemicals might do more harm than good. The treatments don't add much to fire safety, but they do pose a health risk.
In Albany, the Assembly has passed two bills aimed at protecting children from them. But the chemical industry is lobbying mightily to keep the Senate from acting. The Senate should resist the lobbying and pass the bills to make New York safer.
The chemicals got into furniture when Big Tobacco, to deflect attention from its own products as the cause of sleeping-smoker fires, laid the blame on furniture. And children's products got defined as furniture. Sales of the chemicals soared.
One of them, a form of the chemical Tris known as TDCPP, has been identified as a cancer risk. But legislative efforts to ban flame retardants like Tris have run into fierce opposition from a group called Citizens for Fire Safety Institute. A scathing investigative report in May by the Chicago Tribune showed the organization to be totally a creature of flame-retardant manufacturers.
Last year, Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) sponsored legislation to ban TDCPP, the most prevalent form of Tris, from children's products. TCEP, a less important chemical, also was targeted. The Senate wanted the TDCPP out of the bill, and Sweeney reluctantly agreed. That TCEP-only bill did become law last year -- the first time a state had banned the sale of children's products containing a form of Tris.
In discussions over last year's bill, the Senate also promised that this year it would pass a bill broadening the ban to the more prevalent form. So this session the Assembly passed a bill expanding the ban to include TDCPP, then sent it to the Senate. There, it languishes in committee.
The future in the Senate also looks grim for a another Sweeney bill that the Assembly passed this year. It would create a regularly updated list of harmful chemicals, then ban the sale of children's products that contain them.
As they prepare to leave Albany and focus on the election, Senate Republicans need to think more about children's health than about the bottom line of a handful of chemical firms. They should pass both bills.