BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 127
                                                                  Page 1

          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 127 (Skinner) 
          As Amended  May 29, 2013
          Majority vote 

           NATURAL RESOURCES   6-3         APPROPRIATIONS      12-5        
           
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Ayes:|Chesbro, Garcia,          |Ayes:|Gatto, Bocanegra,         |
          |     |Muratsuchi, Skinner,      |     |Bradford,                 |
          |     |Stone, Williams           |     |Ian Calderon, Campos,     |
          |     |                          |     |Eggman, Gomez, Hall,      |
          |     |                          |     |Ammiano, Pan, Quirk,      |
          |     |                          |     |Weber                     |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
          |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
          |Nays:|Grove, Bigelow, Patterson |Nays:|Harkey, Bigelow,          |
          |     |                          |     |Donnelly, Linder, Wagner  |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           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.   
          Specifically,  this bill:  
           
           1)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  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee, this bill has increased special fund costs to the SFM  
          to propose building standards in the range of $100,000 to  
          $200,000.








                                                                  AB 127
                                                                  Page 2


           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  
          polybromanated 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 milk.  

          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 -  
          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,  
          polyisocyanurate, 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,  








                                                                  AB 127
                                                                  Page 3

          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% higher than the general population in the U.S.  

          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.  

           
          Analysis Prepared by  :  Elizabeth MacMillan / NAT. RES. / (916)  
          319-2092 


                                                                FN: 0001030