BOSTON — As firefighters watched on New Year's Day, a bill to ban certain flame retardants from household goods bounced back-and-forth between the House and Senate, ultimately landing on Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.

The last vote in the Senate, resolving the question of whether the bill would pass in the final hours of the two-year legislative session, was met with hugs and applause. The question before supporters now is whether Baker will sign the bill into law or let it die.

Baker was still reviewing the bill as of Monday, according to his office.

The Jan. 1 House and Senate sessions marked the end of the 2017-2018 term. Baker, who was sworn in for his second term last Thursday, has until Jan. 11 to act on the flame retardants bill and others passed on New Year's Day.

Normally, if the governor does not sign a bill by the end of his 10-day review period, it becomes law automatically. But this bill and others passed with fewer than 10 days remaining in the last legislative session face the possibility of a pocket veto, meaning they will die if not signed into law.

Rep. Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House, said she "can't imagine" Baker not signing it.

"I think our bill is very strong, it speaks to the needs of firefighters, it speaks to keeping children safe, and it speaks to respecting how we can continue to manufacture and allow businesses to thrive," she said. "All that is possible with this bill. It really is the best of what good public policy looks like. It would be confounding for the governor not to stand with children and the lives of firefighters who stand with us every day. I have to believe that he is eager to sign it."

The bill prohibits the manufacture or sale of children's products, household furniture and bedding that contain 11 chemical flame retardants.

The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, which backs the bill, said flame retardants in question are not needed to meet modern flammability standards but are often added to household products, where they "get out into the dust in our homes and the air that we breathe." Firefighters are exposed to the chemicals when they go into burning buildings, the alliance said.

Thirteen other states have banned one or more flame retardants, according to the alliance.

Every three years, the Department of Environmental Protection would be charged with reviewing and recommending other chemical flame retardants for possible prohibition.

The ban would not apply to "motor vehicles, watercraft, aircraft, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles or any component parts," used products containing prohibited chemicals, products manufactured before June 1, 2019, or "covered product that contains chemicals prohibited under this section due to the presence of recycled materials used during the manufacture of the product covered."

Decker described the bill as a public health issue.

"The flame retardants that are being used, not only do they not actually work in slowing fires down, they're actually killing us," she said. "These carcinogens are directly related to the highest rates of the type of cancers that firefighters are getting, and our children are breathing those fumes."

If Baker does not sign the bill, lawmakers would need to file it again this session, and it would go through the committee hearing process once more before it could surface for a vote in either the House or Senate.

 

 

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