IAFF and Consumer Reports urge NHTSA to revise fire safety standards in cars

June 20, 2024

Joint effort to remove flame retardants from cars

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and Consumer Reports have delivered a petition with over 32,000 signatures to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seeking revised fire safety standards in automobiles.

As reported by the IAFF, the petition aims to remove flame retardants from cars due to their toxic nature and ineffectiveness in preventing fires.

Racquel Cesnalis, IAFF Deputy Director of Occupational Health and Medicine, said: “Flame retardants do not perform as they were designed; they do not prevent fires and they are making the fire environment more toxic and increasing disease in fire fighters.”

The IAFF is among 70 organizations urging NHTSA to update its 1971 flammability standard for vehicle interiors, FMVSS No.

302, and consider alternative testing methods that do not lead to the use of harmful chemicals in vehicles.

Health risks associated with flame retardants

This initiative aims to eliminate toxic flame-retardant chemicals from car interiors, which are linked to severe health risks, including cancer.

Will Wallace, Associate Director of Safety Policy for Consumer Reports, stated: “We’re here with an important message today. We need to get cancer-causing chemicals out of cars.”

Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, added: “Everyone who rides in a car is needlessly exposed to cancer-causing, neurotoxic flame-retardant chemicals because of an outdated flammability standard.

“It is time for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to modernize their 1971 standard so we can have cars that are both fire-safe and healthy.”

Increased occupational exposure for fire fighters

Fire fighters face increased occupational exposure to PFAS through firefighting, training, and daily interactions with firefighting foams and turnout gear.

Patrick Morrison, IAFF’s Chief of Field Services, expressed concern: “Fire fighters are concerned that flame retardants contribute to their very high cancer rates.

“Filling products with these harmful chemicals does little to prevent fires for most uses and instead makes the blazes smokier and more toxic for victims, and especially for first responders.”

He urged NHTSA to update their flammability standard to be met without flame retardant chemicals inside vehicles.

FSJA comment

The call for revising automobile fire safety standards reflects a broader concern about the use of flame retardants and their health implications.

This collaborative effort between fire fighters, consumer advocates, and scientific organizations highlights the need for updated regulations that prioritize both fire safety and health.

The involvement of multiple stakeholders emphasizes the significance of the issue and the need for regulatory bodies to consider modern alternatives to outdated safety standards.

The initiative underlines the importance of balancing safety measures with health risks, particularly for those regularly exposed to these chemicals, such as fire fighters.

The push for regulatory changes may prompt further research and development in safer fire prevention technologies and standards that protect public health without compromising on safety.

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