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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