November 16, 2015
This article is in reference to President Edward Kelly's Testimony infront of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on June 24th, 2015 regarding the dangers that flame retardants pose to firefighters, as well as other critical matters. A representative of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts will once again be testifying on the very serious and urgent matter that is flame retardants this week.
President Kelly's Testimony to the CPSC
RE: Public Hearing – CPSC FY 2016-2017 Agenda and Priorities
There are many consumer issues related to fire safety. In my opinion, firefighters are in a unique position to represent the interest of the consumer on these issues because of 3 characteristics:1. Firefighters have a unique and intimate understanding of fire risk,2. Firefighters work in locations in which consumers live, i.e. their homes and3. Firefighters and their families are also consumers.
In many cases related to fire safety, the CPSC defers to private organizations regarding the development of regulations. I would first like to discuss in general how the setup of private organizations, while appearing to be fair, might actually work against the consumer. I will then discuss how these private organizations have dealt with smoke alarms and flame retardants in furniture.
Voluntary Standards Organizations
Both smoke alarms and flame-retardants are addressed by existing or proposed standards from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and/or Underwriters Laboratories (ULs). These organizations are private Voluntary Standards Organizations (VSOs) that makes decisions affecting the lives of American consumers and American firefighters. It is imperative that the CPSC and other private and public entities that represent consumer interests are more directly and actively involved in voluntary standards developing organizations. VSOs provide tremendous benefits to the U.S. as a whole, and consumers in particular. However, there is currently insufficient consumer input. Additionally, in the standards development process, there is often undue influence from those who stand to financially benefit who do not consider the needs of consumers.
In a 2012 GAO report1, the following conclusion was written about the CPSC’s involvement in consensus standards development:
“Without more active participation from CPSC, standards emerging from standards development organizations risk being less stringent and may be inadequate to protect the public from hazards”.
The question for the CPSC to consider as it prepares future budgets is, ‘how can this more active role be accomplished without a massive increase in funds?’ The key in my opinion is to increase the participation of groups outside the CPSC, but who also share similar concern for the safety of consumers, e.g. fire safety organizations and unions. This will allow the CPSC to share the burden and responsibility that it has to protect consumers. At the same time, the CPSC must limit the ability of the regulated industry to work against the interest of the American consumer. The CPSC must use its considerable influence with the various VSOs with which it works, to implement three agenda items:1. Influence VSOs to institute programs to fund the participation of private and public groups that can balance the influence of the regulated industry and2. Influence VSOs to limit the percentage of any one interest group on a Committee to 25%.3. Influence VSOs to insure that the true measure of an industry’s influence is made transparent by tightening up “conflict of interest” rules, particularly when applied to “neutral” experts who often act as industry consultants.
Agenda Item #1: Influence VSOs to institute programs to fund the participation of private and public groups that can balance the influence of the regulated industry.
When a state or local government delegates legislative and executive responsibility to promulgate legally binding regulations to a VSO, they create a monopoly for that organization to publish and sell that code. In return for this effective “monopoly,” the NFPA and UL, as well as many other Voluntary Standards Organizations should provide financial support to enforcers, private consumer organizations, and state public health and consumer officials in order to insure that the codes and standards reflect the will and/or value judgments of the American public. As noted in Annex A, many groups have concluded that Consumers do not have enough representation, and that it is cost prohibitive for a small-scale consumer and unions to participate directly in the standards setting process. Although the NFPA and UL have some funding available, these programs should be expanded.
Agenda Item #2: Influence VSOs to limit the percentage of any one interest group on a Committee to 25%.
The consensus process used by the NFPA and UL allows an individual interest group to comprise 33% of the committee. At the same time, it requires a 66% vote to approve new requirements. As a consequence, the manufacturers on a committee can veto any requirement they do not like. Both UL and the NFPA have nine categories of members, including Producer, Consumer, and Enforcer, etc. On a balanced committee, each group should comprise approximately 11% of the total. Why is one group allowed to have three times that percentage? On the committees/panels that affect their financial interest, the industry being regulated always appears to fill up the allowed quota while some committees/panels have little or no consumer representation. Limiting any one category to no more than 25% would help address this imbalance.
Agenda Item #3: Influence VSOs to insure that the true measure of an industry’s influence is made transparent by tightening up “conflict of interest” rules, particularly when applied to “neutral” experts who often act as industry consultants.
When developing the standards, participants who are consultants (and are categorized as such – for example “Special Expert” in the NFPA system or “General Interest” in the UL system) generally refrain from voting on a specific issue if they have been retained for that issue. However, VSOs still allow this member who is being compensated financially by an industry member to be counted as a neutral “expert” for other issues. It seems unlikely that an expert who is being paid by a manufacturer on one specific issue would vote against that manufacturer’s interest on any issue. As a consequence, although the manufacturers are limited to 1/3 of the seats on an NFPA Committee or an UL Panel, they often have retained several other Committee or Technical Panel members at some point, thereby creating the potential that their influence extends to more than 1/3 of the membership.
Examples of Industry Undue Influence
In 2009, there were several proposals that would require marking on the packaging of an ionization alarm that would warn the consumer not to purchase this particular smoke alarm if it was to be placed near a kitchen. Although it received support from the vast majority of enforcers, government staff, and representatives from consumer groups, it failed to get 66% of the vote, which is required for consensus to be reached. As a consequence, no warning is required.
In a meeting with Underwriters Laboratories’ (ULs) staff on October 30, 1995, representatives from the CPSC described one concern with smoke alarms. CPSC staff expressed concerns about ionization smoke detectors unable to respond to a smoldering fire situation. CPSC presented data from the Norwegian Fire Research Laboratory. In this research the authors concluded that ionization smoke alarms, including UL217 smoke alarms, responded too late in smoldering fires. In 2014, the CPSC supported proposals for new fire tests in UL217 (UL Standard for Smoke Alarms), proposed by the Boston Fire Department. These tests would have finally addressed the concerns regarding the adequacy of the UL fire tests that the CPSC first raised over 15 years ago. As the CPSC is aware, the proposal failed. So despite being aware of this information for over 15 years the CPSC has once again allowed the VSOs that it participates in to fail to adequately address these issues in a timely manner.
Flame Retardants in Furniture
The IAFF supports federal efforts to remove disease-?causing flame-retardants from upholstered furniture and other products, and supports federal efforts requiring manufacturers of such products to utilize alternative safety measures in lieu of flame- retardants. These sentiments echo concerns raised by the CPSC in 20082.
Despite the position of many state governments as well as many federal agencies, the NFPA Fire Tests Committee seems determined not only to develop open flame tests, which were rejected by the CPSC, they also have discussed the need for a new test to make furniture resistant to much larger flames. This would likely require a substantial amount of flame-retardants to be used. One should not be surprised with this outcome since the Fire Tests Committee also appears to be overly influenced by industry representatives, as well as “neutral” experts, who often act as consultants to the industry. In addition, although the CPSC serves on the main committee in a non-voting capacity, no one from the CPSC was assigned to the subcommittee charged with developing a new fire test. In fact, on this key subcommittee no one represents either enforcers or consumers, which amplifies the influence of the industry members. The IAFF has taken a position on the committee but it is too often finding itself alone in advocating that the public interest, including the safety of firefighters, be given a higher priority, and that the health risks created by new fire tests be taken into account when the committee makes “value judgments.”
It appears that the NFPA Fire Tests Committee, which is heavily weighted toward industry, may not properly weigh the potential health risks from flame-retardants when making decisions regarding the need for a large open-flame test. If this new test is referenced by other NFPA Codes then it is possible that, despite clear policies at the state and federal level to limit the use of flame-retardants, state fire codes based on NFPA1 (National Fire Code) and health facilities all over the country which have to comply with NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code), would end up with regulations opposed to those policies. This outcome would be a consequence of government delegating legislative and administrative authority to a private organization without adequate controls to insure that the regulations developed by a private organization reflect the public interest.
The IAFF has increased its commitment to participate more actively in many codes and standards. (http://buildingcodes.iaff.org/default.aspx). The IAFF is active in the efforts to improve smoke alarms and develop furniture flammability regulations that put consumer interests ahead of industry interests. This will help keep firefighters safer, as well as the public that we are sworn to protect. However, this effort by Union Firefighters must be mirrored by the CPSC. In order to properly protect and represent consumers, the CPSC should take a more active voting role on VSO committees as well as influencing VSOs’ policies on reimbursement and conflicts of interest. The CPSC can accomplish this goal without a considerable budget increase and without the need to participate in hundreds of additional technical committees.
Although VSOs provide tremendous benefits to the U.S. as a whole and to consumers in particular, there is the potential for insufficient consumer input. I would like to finish by quoting testimony by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the “father of the nuclear submarine”, given before Congress in 1970.
“The typical industry-controlled code or standard is formulated by a committee elected or appointed by a committee elected or appointed by a technical society or similar group. Many of the committee members are drawn from the manufacturers to whom the code is to be applied. Others are drawn from engineering consulting firms and various Government organizations.
However, since near unanimous agreement in the committee must generally be obtained to set requirements or to change them, the code represents a minimum level of requirements that is acceptable to industry. In a subtle way, the use of industry codes or standards tends to create a false sense of security. Described by code committees and by the language of many codes themselves as safety rules, they tend to inhibit those legally responsible for protecting the public from taking the necessary action to safeguard health and well being. Many states and municipalities have incorporated these codes into their laws, thus, in effect delegating to code committees their own responsibility for protecting the public.”
Edward Kelly, President
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BOSTON GLOBE: Settlement will make Narcan more affordable, Mass. AG says
Attorney General Maura Healey announced Monday that a manufacturer of a drug that can help reverse opioid overdoses will pay the state $325,000, resolving her concerns about a sharp price increase last year.
As the opioid overdose crisis continues to rip through Massachusetts, Healey said that the settlement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. will help make the drug, naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, more widely available to cities and towns across the state.
Emergency workers in Massachusetts used about 11,000 doses of Narcan last year, Healey said. The payment, small in the sweep of the $38.1 billion state budget, is the equivalent cost of nearly 10,000 units of naloxone, according to her office.
“We know this drug is important. We know it saves lives by reversing overdoses in an instant and bringing those people back from the brink of death,” Healey said at a news conference surrounded by top public health, law enforcement, and fire officials, and Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg.
Marylou Sudders, secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, lauded the attorney general’s effort and the power of the drug at the event.
“Narcan is a lifesaver. There’s just nothing more basic than that,” Sudders said. “It allows our first responders to completely reverse a death, an opioid death, a heroin death and to get someone to treatment.”
A Healey deputy sent a letter to Amphastar earlier this year saying increases in the cost of the drug “have strained access to this life-saving medication at exactly the moment when it is most needed.”
The $325,000 will go into the Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchase Trust Fund, created in this year’s state budget. That fund is aimed at helping communities gain cheaper access to the drug.
Jason Shandell, president of Amphastar, responded to the announcement in an email.
“We are happy that we could assist the state of MA in its efforts to combat opioid overdoses. We are committed to providing safe and effective pharmaceutical products ...” he wrote.
High levels of opioids in a person’s system can reduce their respiration and level of consciousness, according to Dr. Daniel P. Alford, who directs the Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit at Boston Medical Center. Naloxone works by displacing opioids from the receptors they are on, mostly in the brain, which precipitates withdrawal and can help restore consciousness and breathing in overdose victims, he said.
The drug is “very safe and incredibly effective in terms of saving lives,” he said. “Reversing an overdose and allowing people to then get more definitive help makes a lot of sense.”
Efforts at addressing the scourge of opioid overdoses in the state have been bipartisan. Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican; Healey and the top two leaders in the Legislature, Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, all Democrats, have worked together to address tackle the public health emergency.
The state has seen an uptick in unintentional opioid overdose deaths in recent years. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said recently that an estimated 1,256 Massachusetts residents died from opioid overdoses in 2014, a sharp increase from 2013 and 2012.
Effort afoot to ban flame retardants in furniture
By Christian M. Wade CNHI State Reporter | Posted: Thursday, August 6, 2015 3:00 am
BOSTON — Flame retardants show up in a range of products from children’s clothes and toys to furniture and electronics, and over the years they’ve gotten credit for saving lives and property.
But fire-slowing chemicals are also linked to health problems — including cancer, birth defects and nervous system damage — and are banned in at least 13 states.
A coalition of firefighters and environmentalists in Massachusetts is lobbying for a similar ban on flame- retardant children’s products and household furniture. They point to studies that suggest flame-retardant chemicals are a health threat that actually does little good.
“Flame retardants cause cancer, and they don’t stop fires,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts director for Clean Water Action, a coalition member. “It’s time for these toxic chemicals to go.”
The group — which includes the American Academy of Pediatrics and Massachusetts Nurses Association — wants a prohibition on the manufacture or sale of children’s products and upholstered furniture that contain any of nearly a dozen toxic chemicals identified as harmful.
With furniture makers and retailers moving away from using flame retardants anyway, the chemical industry is fighting back to protect a multibillion-dollar market that reaches into nearly every American home.
A spokesman for the American Chemistry Council defended the use of flame retardants in clothing and other products, adding that a “one-size fits-all” ban isn’t the solution.
“Fires have dropped significantly over the past 40 years, and a major contributor to the decline in fires and fire deaths since the 1970s was the development of a comprehensive set of fire-safety measures that includes flame retardants,” said council spokesman Bryan Goodman.
He pointed out that flame retardants are subject to review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal regulators. A recent study by the European Union concluded that one of the more common chemicals used in flame retardants doesn’t pose a health risk, he said.
Edward Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, said flame retardants do little to prevent fires but “pose a real threat” to firefighters working inside burning buildings.
Firefighters have cancer rates three times higher than the public, he said.
“When we enter a home fire, we breathe in toxins from flame retardants that put us at risk,” Kelly said.
Jennifer Lowry, a Missouri physician and chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, noted mounting evidence that flame-retardant products cause fertility problems in adults, as well as long-term health effects for children, but their pervasiveness makes them difficult to avoid.
“We live in a sludge of chemicals that are linked to some serious health problems,” Lowry said. “They get out into the dirt and dust in our homes, the air that we breathe, and ultimately into our bodies.”
At least 13 states — including California, Maine, New York and Vermont — ban flame-retardant products, while a dozen other states are considering similar restrictions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But the industry is resisting and suing to block laws that seek to keep flame retardants off the market or require labeling of new products.
Advocates are pressing the Consumer Product Safety Commission to aggressively ban some products with flame retardant chemicals. The industry is fighting that effort, as well.
Meanwhile, furniture-makers have reacted to consumer concerns by shifting away from retardants.
Ashley Furniture — the country’s largest furniture retailer — stopped using flame-retardant chemicals in its upholstered furniture as of this year. A spokesman said the company changed its national policy when it was forced to comply with California’s ban on the use of flame retardants.
Lay-Z-Boy, Crate & Barrel and the Futon Shop also recently began selling flame retardant-free furniture.
Under a new federal “flammability” standard, upholstery fabric must resist a smoldering cigarette, which statistics indicate is the primary cause of residential fires involving furniture.
Advocates for banning flame retardants say the chemical industry is finding a way around restrictions imposed by states by merely adjusting the compounds it uses.
“It’s been a classic example of what we call the ‘whack-a-mole’ phenomenon,” said Saunders, of Clean Water Action. “One toxic flame retardant chemical gets phased out, and it’s just replaced with another, equally toxic chemical.”
Christian Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
President Edward Kelly announces Mobile Integrated Health legislation passed!
The Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts are proud to announce that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker officially signed into law groundbreaking legislation, titled Mobile Integrated Health Care, which will propel community health to new heights. Through foreword thinking, President Edward Kelly, and the PFFM executive board in conjunction with the PFFM EMS committee, successfully lobbied the legislature about the needed change in the infrastructure and care delivery systems within the pre-hospital realm.
This legislation provides an integrated, multidisciplinary, and multi-sector approach to community health that seeks to maximize patient outcomes, while fostering community, health and wellness. In conjunction with Massachusetts Nurses Association, Brewster Ambulance Service, and the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, together we aim to provide a holistic and comprehensive approach to health and wellness along the continuum.
Recognizing the pivotal role the fire service will play in mobile integrated health, President Kelly has advanced a multidisciplinary strategic vision paving the way for Mobile Integrated Health Care, the first legislation of its kind in the nation to incorporate fire-based EMS in mobile community health. President Kelly has been instrumental in establishing collaborative and productive relationships between public and private sector entities; relationships that are the foundation of a successful strategic plan. The passage of this Bill signifies evolutionary progress in pre-hospital health care that will inevitably transform not only the manner in which care is delivered, but also, progress that will sustain healthy communities.
The PFFM would like to recognize and thank Stephen Walsh of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals for his collaboration with fire-based EMS in drafting and promoting the Mobile Integrated Health Care bill.
The Theme of the 2015, 41st Biennial Convention of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts was"We Fight..We Win".This video was part of the opening ceremonies.