BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 127
                                                                  Page 1

          Date of Hearing:  April 29, 2013

                                Wesley Chesbro, Chair
                    AB 127 (Skinner) - As Amended:  April 22, 2013
          SUBJECT  :  Fire safety:  flame retardants:  building insulation

          SUMMARY  :  Requires the State Fire Marshal (SFM), in consultation  
          with the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home  
          Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation (Bureau), to propose for  
          adoption by the Building Standards Commission (BSC) building  
          standards that maintain overall fire safety while giving full  
          consideration to the long-term human and ecological health  
          impacts associated with chemical flame retardants.  

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)Identifies state entities with authority to develop building  
            standards for specified residencies: 

             a)   Office of the State Fire Marshall develops standards  
               relating to fire and panic safety; 

             b)   Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)  
               develops standards for residential construction; 

             c)   State Architect develops standards for public school  

             d)   Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development  
               develops standards for hospitals and health clinics; and, 

             e)   BSC when no other state entity has the authority or  
               expertise to do so.  

          2)Requires BSC to consult with specified entities when  
            developing green building standards, including the California  
            Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Resources  
            Recycling and Recovery, the State Air Resources Board, the  
            Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Department of  
            Public Health, and the Department of Transportation.  

          3)Establishes a fee of $4 per $100,000 in value on each building  
            permit issued by a local jurisdiction.  Allows the  


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            jurisdiction to keep 10 percent of the fee, and directs the  
            remaining amount to the Building Standards Administration  
            Special Revolving Fund to cover the state agency costs  
            associated with developing building standards, with an  
            emphasis on green building standards.   Authorizes BSC to  
            reduce the fee if it determines that a lesser amount is  

          4)Establishes the Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation Act,  
            which is administered by the Bureau of Electronic and  
            Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation  
            (Bureau).  Under the Act: 

             a)   Defines "insulation material" to mean any material or  
               combination of materials applied or installed within or  
               contiguous to a roof, wall, ceiling, or floor of a building  
               or structure, or contiguous to the surface of any appliance  
               or its intake or outtake mechanism, for the purpose of  
               reducing heat transfer and thus energy requirements for  
               heating and cooling or reducing adverse temperature  
               fluctuations of the building, room, appliance, or  

             b)   Authorizes the Bureau, with input from the California  
               Energy Commission (CEC), the State Fire Marshall,  
               manufacturers, distributors, and licensed installers, to  
               establish insulation material standards governing the  
               quality of all insulation material sold or installed in the  
               state, including safety and thermal performance.  

             c)   Requires that any standards adopted relating to  
               insulation material be submitted to BSC for adoption into  
               state building standards.  

           THIS BILL  : 

          1)States numerous findings and declarations relating to the  
            environmental and health impacts of chemical flame retardants  
            and their use in building insulation.  

          2)States that it is in the best interest of the state to reduce  
            the use of chemical flame retardants in building insulation,  
            while preserving building fire safety and encouraging healthy  
            building practices. 


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          3)By January 1, 2015, requires the SFM, in consultation with the  
            Bureau, to propose updated flammability standards for adoption  
            by BSC that: 

             a)   Maintain overall building fire safety while "giving full  
               consideration" to the long-term health and environmental  
               effects of chemical flame retardants; and, 

             b)   Ensure that there is adequate protection from fires that  
               travel between walls and into confined areas, including  
               crawl spaces and attics.  
          FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown

           COMMENTS  :

           Background on chemical flame retardants  .  A significant number  
          of peer-reviewed studies have linked chemical flame retardants  
          (generally halogenated organic compounds with chlorine or  
          bromine bonded to carbon) to numerous public health problems,  
          including cancer, neurological and reproductive impairments,  
          infertility, reduced IQ, hormone and thyroid disruption, hearing  
          deficits, and learning disorders.   Scientific evidence has  
          documented that many halogenated fire retardants are persistent,  
          accumulate up the food chain, and are now found at increasing  
          levels in people, wildlife, and our food supply.  Developing  
          fetuses and young children are the most vulnerable.  Studies  
          show that significant exposure occurs as halogenated fire  
          retardants escape from polyurethane foam used in furniture and  
          other products and are present in household dust.  According to  
          the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the level of  
          polybromainated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) measured in humans in  
          the U.S. and Canada are typically 10 times higher than in  
          Europe, and appear to be doubling every few years.  These  
          chemicals are known to accumulate in blood, fat, and breast  

          On July 18, 2012, Governor Brown directed the Bureau to review  
          and revise the state's furniture flammability standards to  
          reduce the use of toxic flame retardants in home furnishings.   
          Governor Brown stated, "Toxic flame retardants are found in  
          everything from high chairs to couches and a growing body of  
          evidence suggests that these chemicals harm human health and the  
          environment.  We must find better ways to meet fire safety  
          standards by reducing or eliminating - wherever possible -  


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          dangerous chemicals."   The Bureau is currently accepting  
          comments on the revised regulations.  

          While the updated requirements for furniture will reduce  
          exposure to chemical flame retardants, they are still widely  
          used in building insulation.  These chemicals are most common in  
          the various types of "foam" insulation (i.e., polystyrene,  
          polysocyanurate, and polyurethane) that are commonly used in  
          green building projects.

           Fire safety  .  As with upholstered furniture, the use of barriers  
          has the potential to be as effective at reducing fire risk as  
          chemical flame retardants.  A recent paper, Flame Retardants in  
          Building Insulation:  A Case for Re-Evaluating Building Codes,  
          written by a number of fire safety experts and scientists, calls  
          for revisions to the building code and building insulation  
          standards.  According to the paper, updated standards could  
          improve fire safety through barriers such as wallboard and  
          decrease or eliminate the need for the large amounts of chemical  
          flame retardants currently used.  

          While chemical flame retardants may reduce fire risks, they pose  
          significant health risks to firefighters.  According to the San  
          Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation,  
          firefighters are exposed to a "chemical cocktail" every time  
          they enter a building fire.  After the fire is extinguished, the  
          emission of toxic gasses continues.  Firefighters rely on  
          "combustion gases indicators" (CGIs) to indicate when they are  
          "clear" to remove their breathing apparatuses.  However, CGIs  
          are only able to detect a small number of the types of toxic  
          gases that may be present after a fire.  Chemical flame  
          retardants create toxic emissions when they burn, including  
          known carcinogens.  In 2009, the San Francisco Fire Department  
          participated in a peer-reviewed study, which found that the  
          blood levels of PBDEs in the 12 firefighters tested were over 30  
          percent higher than the general population in California, and 60  
          percent higher than the general population in the U.S.  

           This bill  .  This bill requires the SFM, in consultation with the  
          Bureau, to update the state's building standards relating to  
          fire safety to reduce the need for chemical flame retardants in  
          building insulation.  



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          Association of Regional Center Agencies
          Breast Cancer Action
          Breast Cancer Fund
          California Professional Firefighters
          Center for Environmental Health
          Clean Water Action
          Consumer Federation of California
          Developmental Center for Appropriate Technology
          Episcopal Diocese Commission on the Environment
          Fire Science and Technology, Inc.
          Green Science Policy Institute
          Lake/Flato Architects
          Natural Resources Defense Council
          Northern California Chapter of Architects/Designers/Planners for  
          Social Responsibility
          Physicians for Social Responsibility, San Francisco Bay Area  
          San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation
          Siegel & Strain Architects
          Sierra Club California
          Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
          Trauma Foundation
          United States Green Building Council, California Chapter

          All Seasons Insulation, Inc.
          American Chemistry Council
          Best Contracting Services
          California Chamber of Commerce
          California Manufacturers and Technology Association
          Center for the Polyurethanes Industry
          Central Coating Company, Inc.
          CIServices, Inc.
          Cool Roof Systems
          Diamond Lines, Inc.
          Expanded Polyurethanes Industry
          Extruded Polystyrene Foam Association
          Chemical Industry Council of California
          Henry Company
          Industrial Environmental Association
          Insulate SB, Inc.
          National Coatings Corporation


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          Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association
          Quadrant Spray Foam Technologies
          SDI Insulation
          Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance
          Steve Easley & Associates
          The Dow Chemical Company
          Western Pacific Roofing, Inc.
          5-Star Insulation

          Analysis Prepared by  :  Elizabeth MacMillan / NAT. RES. / (916)