BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 127
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          AB 127 (Skinner)
          As Amended  September 3, 2013
          Majority vote
          |ASSEMBLY:  |49-26|(May 30, 2013)  |SENATE: |29-7 |(September 11, |
          |           |     |                |        |     |2013)          |
           Original Committee Reference:   NAT. RES.  

           SUMMARY  :  Requires the State Fire Marshal (SFM), in consultation  
          with the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home  
          Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation (Bureau), to review the  
          flammability standards for building insulation materials,  
          including whether the flammability standards for some insulation  
          materials can only be met with the addition of chemical flame  
          retardants.  Requires the SFM, based on the review, to propose  
          for consideration by the Building Standards Commission (BSC)  
          updated insulation flammability standards by July 1, 2015.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee, this bill has minor and absorbable cost from the  
          Building Standards Administration Special Revolving Fund  
          (special) to the SFM for the development of update insulation  
          flammability standards, and minor and absorbable cost to the  
          Bureau from the Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation Fund  
          (special) consult with the SFM.

           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  


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          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,  
          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  


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          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% 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  

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