NAFRA Urges Kaiser Permanente to Reverse Decision that Reduces Fire Safety in Health Care Facilities

NAFRA Urges Kaiser Permanente to Reverse Decision that Reduces Fire Safety in
                            Health Care Facilities

Kaiser Decision to Stop Purchasing Furniture with Flame Retardants Based on
Products No Longer on Market

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2014

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The North American Flame
Retardant Alliance (NAFRA), a group representing the leading manufacturers of
flame retardant chemistries, today sent a letter to Kaiser Permanente Chairman
and CEO Bernard Tyson urging him to reverse Kaiser Permanente's decision to
cease purchasing for its health care facilities furniture that contain flame
retardants.

"Flame retardants are an important tool in the fire safety tool box. They
represent an important layer of fire protection in hospitals, health care
facilities, and medical offices," President and CEO of the American Chemistry
Council Cal Dooley said in the letter on behalf of NAFRA. "The use of flame
retardants in upholstered furniture can help prevent fires from starting
and/or slow the rate at which small fires become big fires, providing valuable
time for persons to escape danger."

The letter comes as flame retardants have played a measurable role in reducing
the prevalence of fires across the country and have helped protect vulnerable
communities, including the sick and elderly.

Flame retardants "helped the health care industry achieve a low incidence of
fire-related deaths and injuries," Dooley stated in the letter. "By
prohibiting flame retardants in furniture at its facilities, Kaiser will
increase its reliance on technologies designed to reduce the effects of a fire
after it has started (e.g., sprinklers), rather than preventing fires from
starting in the first place."

The NAFRA letter notes that the decision by Kaiser Permanente is based on the
potential health effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)—a group of
flame retardants that are no longer on the market. All flame retardants on
the market today are subject to review by the Environmental Protection Agency
and other global regulatory agencies for safety.

For this reason, NAFRA urges Kaiser Permanente to "give further consideration
to the recently announced policy for purchasing upholstered furniture."

Members of NAFRA have requested a meeting with Kaiser Permanente to discuss
the scientific evidence showing the role flame retardants play in saving
lives.

The full text of the letter can be found
http://flameretardants.americanchemistry.com/Home-Furnishings/Cal-Dooley-Letter-to-Kaiser-Permanente.pdf.

www.americanchemistry.com/newsroom

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged
in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to
make innovative products and services that make people's lives better,
healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and
safety performance through Responsible Care^®, common sense advocacy designed
to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research
and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $770 billion enterprise
and a key element of the nation's economy. It is one of the nation's largest
exporters, accounting for twelve percent of all U.S. exports. Chemistry
companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety
and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have
intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve
security and to defend against any threat to the nation's critical
infrastructure.

Text of Letter to Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson

June 17, 2014

Mr. Bernard J. Tyson
Chairman and CEO
Kaiser Permanente

Re: Kaiser Permanente's new furniture standard

Dear Mr. Tyson:

The North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) of the American Chemistry
Council is troubled by Kaiser Permanente's recent announcement that it will
stop buying furniture that contains flame retardants. NAFRA represents major
manufacturers of a wide variety of flame-retarding substances[1] who are
committed to offering products that enhance fire safety without negatively
impacting human health. We believe that Kaiser's recent decision warrants
further review given that the flame retardants mentioned in the announcement
are no longer in commerce, and in light of recent statements from the United
States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the safety of a number
of flame retarding chemicals. We respectfully ask that you carefully consider
the following facts on flame retardants, and request an opportunity to meet
with you to discuss the issue further.

Flame Retardants Help Save Lives

Flame retardants are an important tool in the fire safety tool box. They
represent an important layer of fire protection in hospitals, health care
facilities, and medical offices. Their use has helped the health care industry
achieve a low incidence of fire-related deaths and injuries, despite the fact
that an estimated 6,240 fires (about 17 fires per day)[2] occur in health care
facilities annually. The use of flame retardants in upholstered furniture can
help prevent fires from starting and/or slow the rate at which small fires
become big fires, providing valuable time for persons to escape danger. By
prohibiting flame retardants in furniture at its facilities, Kaiser will
increase its reliance on technologies designed to reduce the effects of a fire
after it has started (e.g., sprinklers), rather than preventing fires from
starting in the first place.

Flame Retardants are Subject to Regulatory Review

In its announcement, Kaiser Permanente lists potential health effects that
have been associated with exposure to a group of flame retardants, called
polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, that were voluntarily phased out by
the leading manufacturers as long as a decade ago.[3] It is important to note
that many of the concerns about these chemistries are not based on solid
science. In fact, several studies of the potential effects of PBDE exposure
have been conducted, and a recent review of these data concluded that the
evidence that PDBEs cause adverse health effects remains "weak and
inconclusive."[4]

As is the case for all chemicals introduced into commerce since the mid-1980s,
flame retardants developed to replace PBDEs have been subject to review by
EPA. In a recent assessment, EPA identified approximately 50 flame retardants
that the agency said were "unlikely to pose a risk to human health." Included
in this category are flame retardants that are designed to virtually eliminate
the potential for exposure.

This Issue Deserves Further Discussion

Given the variety of flame retardant products available to furniture
manufacturers and the important contribution these products can make to fire
safety, we urge you to give further consideration to the recently announced
policy for purchasing upholstered furniture. We would like to meet with you
and your staff to further discuss the information outlined in this letter. In
the meantime, please feel free to contact me or Steve Risotto
(Steve_Risotto@americanchemistry.com) if you require additional information
about the safety and efficacy of today's flame retardant products.

Sincerely,
Cal Dooley
CEO
The American Chemistry Council

[1]NAFRA members include Albemarle Corporation, Chemtura/Great Lakes
Solutions, and ICL Industrial Products. These companies manufacture flame
retardants based on bromine, phosphorous nitrogen, and inorganic chemicals.

[2]Ahrens M. Fires in Health Care Facilities. National Fire Protection
Association. Quincy, MA. (November 2012, Revised April 2013).

[3]http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/qanda.html.

[4]Kim YR et al. Health consequences of exposure to brominated flame
retardants: A systematic review. Chemosphere 106:1-19 (2014). Kim et al
reviewed 36 studies that investigated the potential health effects of exposure
to PBDEs and other brominated substances.

SOURCE The North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA)

Contact: Bryan Goodman, (202) 249-6510, Bryan_Goodman@americanchemistry.com
 
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