Fanning the Flames: How Banning Flame Retardant Chemicals Puts Consumers at Risk

Given the remote probability that flame retardant chemicals represent a significant health threat, the policy focus should be on how to ensure we use them most effectively. It may be true that these products do not always deliver as much as we would like in all applications, as their critics not, but that does not warrant an extreme approach that tosses the baby out with the bathwater.

There is plenty of evidence that these products have important value that cannot simply be dismissed. In addition, researchers may find new applications for certain organohalogens that provide even greater benefits, but those innovations will never come to pass if regulators blindly ban this or any other category of flame retardant chemicals.

Any reforms in this field should focus on transitioning to a private, voluntary system of flame retardant standard setting. After all, the assumption behind governmental flammability standards is the idea that regulators have enough knowledge to select a standard that will work under a wide array of situations and meet the demand of all consumers. Not only do government regulators lack the necessary information and ability to respond, they serve political interests often at the expensive of science and even public safety. There are many private organizations with competing standards from which manufacturers should be free to choose, allowing standards to keep up with science and giving consumers the choices they demand.

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