Submitted April 4, 2013
April 4, 2013
The Honorable Nancy Skinner
Chair of the Assembly Rules Committee
California State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: AB 127 (Skinner) – SUPPORT
Dear Assemblymember Skinner,
On behalf of the Northern California Chapter of Architects/ Designers/ Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), I am writing to express support for AB 127 (Skinner), the Safer Building Insulation bill. AB 127 calls for a code revision to reduce the use of flame retardant chemicals in building insulation while maintaining building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices. Specifically, AB 127 recognizes the potential adverse health effects of the chemical flame retardants commonly used in building insulation. Once implemented, AB 127 will make building insulation safer and less toxic, without reducing fire safety for building occupants.
Established in 1981 as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, ADPSR works for peace, environmental protection, ecological building, social justice, and the development of healthy communities. ADPSR programs aim to raise professional and public awareness of critical social and environmental issues, further responsive design and planning, and honor persons and organizations whose work exemplifies social responsibility.
Plastic foam insulation is used in buildings to achieve energy efficiency goals. Flame retardant chemicals are added to these materials in an attempt to reduce fire risk. Unfortunately, these same flame retardants can escape from the insulation throughout its life cycle and end up in our indoor and outdoor environments. Here in California, the ubiquitous presence of flame retardants in our environments and in our bodies is well documented. We have higher levels of flame retardants in our bodies than anywhere else in the United States, and much higher levels than in Europe. The potential for these chemicals to adversely affect our health, and especially the health of our children, is cause for concern. Additionally, once the flame retardants do catch fire, they are toxic to breathe in, which can cause harm to emergency responders. Finally, there are no good ways to dispose of insulation with these flame retardants without further polluting our environment. Together these concerns are cause for action.
Current building code requires both: (1) that a thermal barrier be installed to provide fire protection, and (2) that insulation pass a flammability test. The code does not specifically call for the use of flame retardants on plastic foam insulation. However, it is common practice to use flame retardants to meet the code requirements.
Given the toxicity concerns surrounding flame retardants, it is time for the code to be updated so that flame retardant chemicals are not de facto required when they add no fire safety benefit. AB 127 calls for a building code revision to reduce the use of flame retardant chemicals in building insulation while maintaining building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices.
We strongly support AB 127.
Cate Leger for the Northern California Chapter of ADPSR