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Flame Retardants

Vermont law, 9 V.S.A. §§ 2972-2980, limits the use of two types of flame retardants in consumer products—brominated and chlorinated—because of their toxicity to humans.

Brominated flame retardants. The main class of brominated flame retardants is called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), of which there are three major types: octaBDE (“Octa”), pentaPBD (“Penta”), and decaBDE (“Deca”). Only the last of these has been used commercially in recent years. Deca is found in high-impact polystyrene in television casings, computers, and other electronics, as well as in some upholstered furniture and mattresses.

Vermont law limits PBDEs in certain consumer products because of their effects on the nervous and endocrine systems. The law prohibits any person from offering or distributing for sale, distributing for promotional purposes, or knowingly selling at retail in Vermont:

  • As of July 1, 2010, any product containing more than 0.1 percent by weight of Octa or Penta.
  • As of July 1, 2010 (except for inventory purchased before July 1, 2009), any mattress, mattress pad, or upholstered furniture containing more than 0.1 percent by weight of Deca.
  • As of July 1, 2012 (except for inventory purchased before July 1, 2009), any television or computer with a plastic casing containing more than 0.1 percent by weight of Deca.
  • Also, as of July 1, 2013, no person may manufacture, sell or offer for sale, or distribute for sale or use in Vermont any plastic shipping pallet that contains more than 0.1 percent by weight of Deca, except for (1) pallets manufactured before January 1, 2011, and (2) pallets manufactured from recycled pallets as long as they contain Deca in a concentration that is no greater than the concentration in the recycled pallets from which they were made.

    Chlorinated flame retardants. In 2013, the Vermont Legislature enacted prohibitions on two chlorinated flame retardants known as “TDCPP” and “TCEP” (sometimes referred to together as “Tris”) in residential upholstered furniture and children’s products. The Vermont Department of Health was authorized to restrict a related chemical, “TCPP,” by regulation. TDCPP and TCEP are on California’s list of known cancer-causing chemicals. Tris has been found in the foam in baby products (like changing pads, car seats, and crib mattresses) and in residential furniture, as well as in household dust and people’s bodies.

    Under Vermont law:

  • Manufacturers and distributors may not sell residential upholstered furniture or children’s products in Vermont manufactured after December 31, 2013, with any part containing more than 0.1 percent of Tris.
  • As of March 31, 2014, manufacturers and distributors must tell retailers of the presence of Tris in residential upholstered furniture and children’s products.
  • As of July 1, 2014, Vermont retailers may not knowingly offer for sale residential upholstered furniture or children’s products with any part containing more than 0.1 percent of Tris.
  • Notification requirements. Vermont law contains certain notification requirements relating to prohibited flame retardants:

  • As of July 1, 2010, manufacturers of televisions, computers, and shipping pallets that contain a prohibited concentration of Deca must notify persons who sell the product in Vermont of the requirements of the law.
  • As of July 1, 2013, manufacturers of residential upholstered furniture or children’s products that contain a prohibited concentration of Tris must notify persons who sell the product in Vermont of the requirements of the law.
  • As of March 31, 2014, any person other than a retailer who, since July 1, 2013, has manufactured, distributed, or sold in or into Vermont any product containing a prohibited concentration of Tris must notify persons who sell the product in Vermont that the product contains Tris and the concentration of Tris.
  • Substitution of chemicals. Manufacturers may not replace Tris or Deca with other chemicals that are or are likely to be carcinogenic, or that cause birth defects, hormone disruption, neurotoxicity, or reproductive or developmental harm.

    Exemptions. Exempt from the limits on flame retardants are used products, motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts, and building insulation materials.

    Enforcement. Failure to comply with the above restrictions is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”). The Attorney General and private parties have the same enforcement authority with respect to flame retardants as granted under the CPA. In addition, the Attorney General may request that manufacturers of any covered products produce a certificate of compliance with the flame retardant concentration limits; or, if the manufacturer’s products do not comply, the manufacture must notify sellers in Vermont of any non-compliant product and submit to the Attorney General a list of those notified.

      Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.