A new state law in New York bans the sale of televisions and other electronic displays that contain any intentionally added organohalogen flame retardant in their plastic enclosures or stands.
Scientific studies link exposure to organohalogen flame retardants to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive problems as well as to neurological injury in children.
New York’s law is the first in the US that in effect bans organohalogens from use in the cases of electronic consumer goods, health and environmental advocacy groups say. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2024. The state follows the lead of the European Union, which banned the sale of televisions and computers with plastic cases containing organohalogen flame retardants as of March 2021.
Dozens of organohalogen flame retardants are used in a wide variety of consumer goods They are often added to plastics and are not chemically bound within a polymer structure. The substances can migrate out of products and into dust, leading people to be exposed through breathing or via their skin. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found metabolites of these compounds in the blood of most people in the US.
The New York law, which Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed Dec. 31, 2021, also affects other types of flame retardants. It bans the sale of new upholstered furniture or mattresses containing halogenated, organophosphorus, organonitrogen, or nanoscale flame retardants as of 2024. Beginning a decade ago, experts have questioned the effectiveness of flame retardants added to furniture padded with polyurethane foams.
New York’s law addresses “hundreds of toxic versions” of chemically similar flame retardants in one fell swoop, Bobbi Wilding, executive director of the advocacy group Clean and Healthy New York, says in a statement. This is an improvement over the state’s past actions “knocking them off one at a time,” with manufacturers simply substituting a related compound, with similar toxicity, for a banned chemical, Wilding says.
Makers of flame retardants are unhappy with the ban. “Restricting the use of an entire class of chemicals without scientific justification is deeply disappointing and could potentially put residents and businesses at increased fire risk throughout New York State,” the industry group American Chemistry Council’s North American Flame Retardant Alliance says in a statement.