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Flame Retardants

Chemical flame retardants are used in products such as televisions, computers and fabrics to stop fires from occurring or slow the spread of fires that have occurred. One category of flame retardant, brominated flame retardants (BFR), have been widely used in products since the 1960s.

The main class of BFRs are polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), flame retardant chemicals added to a wide variety of household products to delay combustion. There are three major types of PBDEs: Penta, Octa and Deca.

The sole U.S. manufacturer of Penta and Octa ceased production in 2004, leaving just Deca as the remaining PBDE actively used commercially. Deca is most often found in the high-impact polystyrene used in television casings and in computers and other electronics. It can also be found in textiles, primarily used in commercial upholstered furniture, drapery, mattresses and the transportation industry.

In 2009 Vermont enacted Act 61, 9 V.S.A. § 2971, limiting “brominated” flame retardants—sometimes called PBDEs—in certain consumer products. Concerns have been raised about these chemicals’ effects on the human nervous and endocrine systems.

Specifically, Act 61 prohibits any person from offering or distributing for sale, distributing for promotional purposes, or knowingly selling at retail (1) as of July 1, 2010, any product containing more than 0.1 percent by weight of the flame retardants octaBDE or pentaBDE; (2) 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 decaBDE; and (3) 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 decaBDE. These prohibitions do not apply to used products or to motor vehicles or their parts.

In 2013, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 85, which phased out “Tris,” a chlorinated flame retardant, in residential upholstered furniture and children’s products. The ban applies to two chemicals called “TDCPP” and “TCEP.” The Vermont Department of Health was granted the authority 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 (changing pads, car seats, crib mattresses, etc.) and in residential furniture, as well as in household dust and people’s bodies.

Under Act 85:

• Manufacturers/distributors may not sell furniture or children’s products made after 12/31/13 with any part containing more than 0.1 percent of Tris.
• As of 3/31/14, manufacturers/distributors must tell retailers of the presence of Tris in furniture and children’s products.
• As of 7/1/14, Vermont retailers may not knowingly offer for sale furniture or children’s products with any part containing more than 0.1 percent of Tris.
• Manufacturers may not replace Tris with other chemicals likely to be carcinogenic, or that cause birth defects, hormone disruption, neurotoxicity, or reproductive or developmental harm.
• Failure to comply with these restrictions is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act.


The Attorney General and private parties have the same enforcement authority with respect to phthalates as granted under the Consumer Fraud Act.

In addition, the Attorney General may request that manufacturers of any products covered by Acts 61 and 85 produce a certificate of compliance with the law; in the event that the manufacturer’s products do not comply, the manufacture must notify sellers 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.