Calif. group seeks investigation of FR lobbying
Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, June 15, 2012
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A consumer advocacy group here is calling on the state to investigate what it calls a chemical industry front named Citizens for Fire Safety for misguiding regulators on flammability regulations.
The Consumer Federation of California argues that Citizens for Fire Safety, funded by three makers of fire retardant chemicals - Albemarle, ICL Industrial Products and Chemtura - violated a state law prohibiting lobbyists from deceiving lawmakers.
Also related to flame retardants, the California State Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials will hold an informational hearing on June 26 on the topic. It will focus on the effectiveness of the state's FR requirement for furniture, known as TB 117, and of the environmental and human health impacts of flame retardant chemicals, according to a press release from Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety.
The Consumer Federation said the fire safety group paid an expert witness who provided false testimony to legislators. The chemical makers have spent $23 million over the last five years to stop revision of state flammability rules, the press release said.
The call for investigation comes in the wake of a recent four-part series by the Chicago Tribune that suggested that to protect their industries, chemical and tobacco special interests steered decades of legislative efforts toward regulating furniture and foam makers.
In recent years, studies have indicated that some of the fire retardant chemicals used in products such as upholstered furniture foam may be more harmful than beneficial, resulting in neurological and reproductive damage.
The Federation said former University of Washington medical school professor Dr. David Heimbach broke state law prohibiting lobbyists or their firms from deceiving elected state, legislative and agency officials or candidates, on proposed legislative or administrative actions.
Heimbach admitted to the Tribune that he fabricated "anecdotal" testimony to legislators about the tragic burning of an infant who died when a pillow she was lying on, which wasn't treated with FR chemicals, burst into flames after a candle ignited it.
Heimbach warned regulators that a proposed non-toxic fire safety regulation would only lead to more tragic deaths. He told the Tribune that he was not under oath and that Citizens for Fire Safety paid for his travel to Sacramento as well as paying consulting fees for his testimony.
"California law enforcement officials should not ignore this revelation of chemical industry payments to an expert witness who lied to legislators," Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California, said in a press release. "Regulators have a duty to investigate the chemical industry's possible violation of a law prohibiting lobbyists from deceiving lawmakers."
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