Toxic Hot Seat (2013) - full transcript

TOXIC HOT SEAT follows a courageous group of firefighters and mothers, journalists and scientists, politicians and activists as they fight to expose a shadowy campaign of deception that left a toxic legacy in our homes and bodies - a campaign so cunning, it's taken nearly 40 years to unravel.

WOMAN: Everyone has
a fear of fire, right?

No one wants to burn
up in a fire.

And if you can stoke that
fear, it's easy to leave

a law in place.

To convince somebody

that something that you've
been led to believe for all

these years is protecting
you, isn't protecting you?

And if you change it,
children are going to burn up

and die horrific deaths.

Who wants to change that law?

[Vehicle engine revving]


MAN: I loved every day
I went to work.

[Truck beeping]

Every time you go out that
door, you're going out

there for one reason,
and that's to help somebody.


And there's no better
feeling in the world.

I distinctly remember

the smell of the soap when I

washed my hands,

the smell of the turnout coats

with the smoke when I

entered in this firehouse,

looking out the back
windows in the dormitory

at nighttime, hoping that
I was going to get a fire.

I know it sounds sort of
strange, but I wanted to

test my skills.


Being a firefighter,
you don't think

about the negative
aspects of the job.

You keep yourself in shape.

You get sort of a... a feeling
that you're infallible.

I mean you... you just...

There's nothing that
you can't do.

You're not gonna get sick.

You take care of yourself.

You eat right.

But I got bit in the
ass, to put it bluntly.

It was January the 5th.

It was a winter morning.

I was out for a run.

About the last mile,
I got to the point where I

couldn't run anymore.

And that had never
happened to me before.

I actually stopped and I walked.

I felt really bad.

Got back into the gym,
went to the bathroom,

and started urinating.

I was peeing just blood.

And within a week I had
a CT scan and was told that

in my right kidney, I had
transitional cell carcinoma...

A rare form of cancer,
normally found in one

in 100,0000 people,
and normally found

in people that work in
the chemical industry.

I was referred to
a doctor at UCSF.

He asked me what my
profession was, and I told

him I was a firefighter
here in San Francisco.

And he goes, "Do you
realize that you work

in the chemical industry?"

And I said, "Well, I've
never really thought of it

that way, but I guess I do."

When you walk into a room,
there could be 100-130

different toxic
chemicals in the air.

You're dealing with flame
retardants that are used

on just about everything...

Clothing, textiles, furnishings.

In the old days,
that stuff didn't exist.

During my treatment
and recovery, another

firefighter here at
Station One came down

with transitional
cell carcinoma.

And then a third firefighter.

And during this period
of time, too, it seemed like

every month somebody
else would be diagnosed

with some form of cancer.

Every month we'd be
going to another funeral

of somebody else that had
contracted it that had

retired and died.

So, it was...

It was an eye opener.

I mean, the realization was
there that we were faced

with a major problem.

[Ship horn blows]

MAN: If you're going to
change the standard,

that the standard
should be changed to

require more chemicals.

You can't get from A to Z

because they've left out...

What do they have to do
with an arson...

Why would you have to...

WOMAN: The 2008 Pulitzer
was for a series

we did called "Hidden Hazards,"

which was about

deadly baby products,

dangerous baby products.

Anything from cribs to this

Godzilla back here

with lead paint on it.

At the end of that story,
a lot changed, thankfully.

It was the biggest
reform movement

in the country to protect
children and their products

in a generation.

It was exciting to see
that kind of result happen.

We were working on
a completely unrelated story

that had to do with chemicals
but not flame retardants.

And I often, when I'm
interviewing people,

will ask at the end,
"So, what didn't I ask you?"

Or, "What's interesting?"

And almost everyone we
talked to said, "Well,

what you really should be
looking at is flame retardants."

All couches seem
to be different.

ROE: Virtually every
American home has flame

retardants in their couch.

And when you talk to
people, people are surprised

that there's flame retardants
in couches and chairs.

You know, they're just
surprised by that fact alone.

And, you know, these are
chemicals that aren't

measured by parts per
billion or parts per

million in a couch.

It's measured by
pounds and ounces.

the late '90s that

the first studies were
coming out raising alarms

about flame retardants in
terms of flame retardants

accumulating in
people and wildlife

in places around the
world that you would never

in a million years
think flame retardants.

[Bird caws]

Suddenly, they had
become controversial.

And they weren't before.
I don't think they were before.

It started in Sweden,

with scientists finding

that these chemicals were

building up in breast milk

and then being passed on

to the next generation.

They were out there,
and nobody really knew much

about them or what
they were doing

in the environment.

And I think, it was
a problem in general

for environmental health
researchers initially is,

why a lot of people didn't
want to touch flame

retardants is fire.

People dying in fires.

The idea that, shouldn't
we do whatever we can to

prevent people from
dying from fires?

And it's hard
to argue against that.

♪ Better things for better
living through chemistry ♪

♪ Or the finer world we want ♪

♪ Better things for better
living through chemistry ♪

♪ That's the promise of Dupont ♪

♪ Every day that we are
living is such a thrill ♪

♪ That we can't
stay nonchalant ♪

♪ Better things for
better living... ♪

That mindset. This
is the world we live in.

This is one of the
consequences of modern

living is having all
of these chemicals in our body.

And if we want, you know,
all of these conveniences...

If we want safer houses,
if we want nonstick pans,

if we want jackets that
repel water, all these

different kinds of things...

There are side effects or
there are consequences that

we just have to live with.

And, you know, in
terms of one school

of thought, just
because they're in our

bodies doesn't mean that
they're causing any harm.

And, yeah, you'll hear that.

I don't see people whose
arms and legs are falling

off, so, therefore
what's the big deal?

one thing to say that

flame retardants are
building up in the environment.

They're building up in people.

And that is alarming.

They're building up
in breast milk?

I mean, that's alarming, right?

But, again, it's if
they work, well, then it's

a little bit of
a different... if they're all...

You know, if there is truly
a huge threat of fire that

we all face, and they're
protecting us from that

threat on a daily basis,
then it's sort

of a different story.

When we waded
into this topic, you know,

at the outset it did
appear very complicated.

And sometimes you do feel
like you're a referee.

Because, you know, you have
the industry on this side,

you have some
activists on this side.

There's allegations going
back and forth, and you do

feel like you're going
in there and saying,

"Wait a second.
I'm just trying"...

You're trying to
figure out the truth.

We weren't out to get
the chemical industry

by any means on this.

You know, we're not advocates.

We're not.

We're not on one side
or another here.

We were trying to get to
the bottom of this question

and this legacy, really,
that's been

around since the seventies.

And why do we have
these chemicals in our lives?

Why do we have them
in our furniture?

Why do we have them
in our bodies?

There we so many layers,
it was like peeling

an onion, you know, there
were so many layers to this


and so many of them
were just rotten.

This is human tragedy.

10 minutes ago, we were
looking at a football game.

I now look at the sad
and tragic site...

a fire starts, people have no

clue how fast it is.

And look at that.

Oh, the poor man.
Oh, this is awful.

I mean, I remember
there was a soccer stadium

fire in Bradford, England.

It happened to be televised.

The cameras were in
the exact opposite end

of the stadium.

They were televising the match.

They weren't seeing anything.

Some stupid thing happened...

Probably someone dropped
a cigarette, maybe

dropped a match.

Who knows what happened.

But after seeing the
video many times, I know

exactly when the fire started.

MALE VOICE ON TV: That looks
very nasty indeed.

And from that moment
until the entire stadium...

A massive, big stadium...

Was on fire was 8 minutes.

It takes 8 minutes for
a massive stadium to be

completely engulfed in
flames from a tiny little fire.

But what I can't tell you

is how many people are injured.

My fear is there may even
have been somebody dead.

I work with the chemical
fire retardant manufacturers.

I mean, in case...

You didn't ask me that,
but it's a well-known thing

that I work with them.

And, well, here we already

have flashover...
you see them
extinguishing the fire.

HIRSCHLER: I believe
in fire safety.

We kill a lot of people in
this country from fires.


[Emergency radio transmissions]

Upholstered furniture?

We have a serious problem.

Let's say a fire
starts in the upholstered

furniture sofa here.

And you see the temperature
rises and rises and rises

until you reach
a certain point when

the temperature has risen
enough that suddenly

everything in that room,
in that compartment,

is burning.

And from that moment,
all bets are off.

There's nothing else that's
gonna be able to save

anything inside
that compartment.

That moment, that is
the moment of flashover.

90% of the paddings...

Maybe even higher...

Of chairs are polyurethane-

Polyurethane foam is very
flammable on its own.

It burns very quickly.
It burns very fast.

Well, if we put flame
retardants in there, we get

the insulating
capability of the foam

and fire safety.

I was the first
person ever to get

a Ph.D. degree in Fire
Protection Engineering.

Back in the late 1980s,
I was working

for the federal government,
and I did a very

extensive study on
a comparison between

goods that did or did not
have flame retardants.

They did ones that were
completely non-fire-retardant...

The typical run-of-the-mill

that you find in most

And ones that
were well-fire-retarded.

The really, uh, proof

of the pudding is how does
the furniture item

burn in full scale?

they found is that the

safer furniture, the safer
products, gave 15 times

more time to escape.

It was massive.

I'm sorry. I mean,
I'm an old man, and I've

run a lot of fire
tests in my life.

And flame retardants,
in my view, should be

one of the...
One of the solutions.

And something that
just bans them out of hand

is just wrong.

Look at the size
of the flame there.

MAN: With great
pleasure, I welcome

one of the giants in
the prevention field,

Andrew McGuire.


You know, it's hard
to know what happens

to a life or my life
if you change

a central event.

When I was 7,
on my birthday, I went

in the kitchen,
and I turned on the oven.

The hem of my flannel
bathrobe ignited.

My sister, who was 4,
saw the flames

coming up my back and screamed.

And then I turned,
saw the flames,

and then I screamed and ran.

Like this. There you go.

So I was on fire about
8, 9, 10 seconds

at the most, and had
third-degree burns on my

legs and back, hands and head.

What clicked for me was all
of those burns that I had

seen in the burn center
were totally preventable.

My burn would have
been preventable.

I don't want someone else
to go through that goddamn

experience if it
doesn't have to happen.

Let's just do the
right thing here.

In 1978, I found out,

that cigarette companies
can make cigarettes

self-extinguish and
not cause fire deaths,

not cause fires.

And the number of fires from...

And deaths from cigarettes,
it's the leading cause

of fire death in America,
in the world.

ROE: I've got to say,
when we first started

working on this topic,
the idea that big tobacco

had a role in why we have flame
retardants in our households...

That was really interesting.
I mean, it was surprising.

Who would have thought
tobacco had anything to do

with your couch, right?

COMMERCIAL: ♪ You can take Salem
out of the country but ♪

♪ You can't take the country
out of Salem ♪

CALLAHAN: These were the days
when a lot of people smoked.

I think 40% of
the country smoked.

A lot of people smoked indoors.

You know, offices,
newsrooms were just a big

cloud of smoke back then.

And people were dying
in furniture fires.

Federal investigators said

today that a discarded
cigarette was the likely

cause of this Hilton Hotel
fire in Houston, March 6,

that killed 12 people.

no question about it.

It was happening commonly.

It was happening
all over the country

at a regular occurrence.

So, there were efforts
afoot to try and change

the cigarette because that
was what was igniting most

of the fires.

In the last 10 years,

significant steps have
been made toward developing

a federal fire-safe
cigarette safety standard.

CALLAHAN: Up to that point,
the industry

response had been,
"We just can't do it.

"We can't make a cigarette
that anyone's gonna want to

"smoke that will
extinguish on its own.

It's just not feasible."

They had a very successful,
very lucrative product.

And they were very
leery of changing it.

...where we're taking on
the major cause of fire death,

the major cause
of fire injury...

McGUIRE: I was there.
I testified.

The cigarette industry said,
"It's not our problem.

You should make furniture

They said that in hearings.

The homes of America are filled

with furniture that had
not been treated to reduce

its flammability.

In fact, I can report that
we have developed a method

for applying a flame
and smolder retardant
in the home.

McGUIRE: They had
a flame retardant that you

could go and spray
everything in your

environment with this
flame retardant to prevent

cigarettes from igniting it.

Fire retardants can save you

thousands of dollars
and possibly save
your life.

McGUIRE: That was
their solution in 1983...

The tobacco industry's

To fires caused by cigarettes.

All right, so, page 23.

I started kind of
noodling around

on the tobacco
document sites, where

there's this phenomenal
repository of documents

that the tobacco
industry turned over to

settle lawsuits.

There's 13 million
of them online.

It's just an investigative
reporter's dream.

This issue of making
a fire-safe cigarette was

gaining some traction,
and they were

worried about it.

They said, "Neither
industry response has been

"particularly effective in
offsetting fire scarred

"victims interviewed by
the news media and paraded

before legislative committees."

"Fire scarred victims."
That's what they feared.

We are not here as freaks

parading before you for
sympathy, but as burn

victims who could have
been any one of you

but for the grace of God.

McGUIRE: These companies,
they don't want

their product associated
with burn injuries or

fire deaths.

That's a very tough
marketing problem.

MAN: You start tampering

with the cigarette, it is
a very highly technical

and complex undertaking.

tobacco industry was

repeatedly trying to
shift the attention to

the furniture that was
going up in flames.

What they realized,
though, early on is they

realized they lacked
credibility, right?

They were the tobacco industry.

Tobacco was... kind of wrote
the playbook on this.

They called it
third-party defense.

If we lack credibility,
let's get someone else

who's much more credible
to do the arguing for us.

The Tobacco Institute,
they bring in

a guy named Peter Sparber.

They hire him, and he's...

He's given the position
of Vice-President,

Tobacco Institute.

Peter Sparber comes in in 1982.

And all of a sudden,
within a couple years of him

being there, he helps organize
a new group on the scene

in America called The
National Association

of State Fire Marshals.

National Association of
State Fire Marshals.

Sounds credible, doesn't it?

You organize a National
Association of State
Fire Marshals.

They're the senior
firefighting officials

in the states.

And Peter Sparber was able
to, to a certain degree,

infiltrate this organization

of fire marshals.

We've clearly
demonstrated that what we

have done has significantly

reduced fire deaths.

MALE VOICE ON TV: The National
Association of State Fire

Marshals believes more
lives can be saved.

It wants tough federal
standards for all

upholstered furniture
sold in this country.

extraordinarily cunning

and, to a certain
degree, brilliant.

Who would have thought
that firefighting...

Fire officials would be
sort of speaking tobacco's

talking points, and winning?

That's what really...
That's what really got me.

What they were arguing
was, you know, the better

way to do this is to
fireproof furniture.

The better way to do this
is to fireproof furniture.

Focus on the fuel rather
than the ignition, the fuel

being the furniture
that's going up in flames.

Everyone believes that you

can't take on the
tobacco industry...

It's too big, it's too powerful.

And probably that's
the single leading cause

in nothing happening,
is that people don't think

it's possible.

And I do.

McGUIRE: There
is one regulation.

It's called
Technical Bulletin 117.

It took effect in the state
of California in 1975.

It's the only
regulation in the world...

No other state, no other
nation in the world has

this standard.

MAN: "All upholstered
furniture sold

"or offered for sale by
a manufacturer or

"a wholesaler for use in
this state," et cetera,

et cetera, "shall
be fire retardant

and shall be labeled
in a manner..."

I was a government
regulator for 30 years.

And so it's almost
like in my genes...

And I was responsible for
safety, and I was trying to

do the best job
I could for safety.

Gordon Damant is in charge

of the California Bureau
of Home Furnishings.

For our program, Damant
set up 10 miniature

overstuffed chairs made of
a cotton batting stuffing,

and covered with
a cotton velvet fabric.

Conceivably, it could be up

to a period of 30 years

until we have

an entire population
of furniture which

is, in fact,

There was a lot
of politics involved.

On some of the early
versions of the standard

that I wrote,
I specifically indicated

that if any flame retardant
chemicals of any type

had to be added
to products in order

to achieve compliance with
the standard, that there

should not be any
negative effect in terms

of adverse health impacts.

That was removed
from the standard.

McGUIRE: So, it was
a solution from 1975

in California, and it
went totally below

the radar screen.

No one knew this happened.

The only people who knew
that it had happened was

the furniture industry.

And they ultimately went
along with it because it

was just California.

But eventually, after the
years went by from 1975 on,

they had to do it for
the rest of the country.

They had to do it for Canada.

Because it was too
difficult to make furniture

for California with poison in
the foam, and then storehouse

furniture for other
states and countries

with no poison in the foam.

So they just said, "Let's just
put poison in all the foam."

McGUIRE: Because
the California market is

so huge, it's in all your
furniture throughout

the country.

WOMAN: It's called

Technical Bulletin 117, TB117.

And if you go home and look

at your couches, you will

probably find TB117
labels on your couches.

And it's not
a very good standard.

It says that the foam

inside your furniture won't

burn when exposed to a

small flame for 12 seconds.

So if you do a thought

experiment and you think

about what happens if
you drop a candle on your

couch, what burns first?


BLUM: Fabric.

And when fabric burns,
do you still have

a teeny flame?

You have a big flame.

And then the furniture...

The foam burns in
maybe 2 or 3 seconds.

And when foam burns in the
presence of organohalogen,

it gives off way more
carbon monoxide soot

and smoke.

And what kills people in fires?

AUDIENCE: Toxic gases.

BLUM: Toxic gases.

So we have the standard...

Arlene Blum, age 33.

A biochemist at the
University of California

at Berkeley,

she studies environmental
chemicals that may cause cancer.

Organizing the first
major all-woman American

expedition to the Himalayas
has been her dream

for 6 years.

BLUM: I had a choice
between going to try to be

the first American woman
to climb Mount Everest,

or writing a paper about
the toxic chemicals

in kids' pajamas.

So, I had a lot of indecision.

So, what would you do?

How many of you would
go to Mount Everest?

How many of you would
stay and write the paper

about the kids' pajamas?

Well, I did both.


So the chemical is called
brominated Tris.

And this was in
the mid-seventies.

And we found a little girl
who had never worn

Tris-treated pajamas.

So we put her in the
pajamas, and we collected

her urine.

And the next day, there
were Tris breakdown

products in her urine.

Does that sound good?

BLUM: And they were cancer-
causing chemicals that we

were finding in this
little girl's urine.

BLUM: I flew my Tris
flag at about 24,000 feet

and sent my paper by mail
runner back to Berkeley to

be published.

It's unusual.

But it worked.

3 months after we wrote
the paper, Tris was removed

from kids' pajamas.

However, today, chlorinated
Tris is the most commonly

used flame retardant in
our furniture

and baby products.

So, here we got it
out of kids' pajamas

in the seventies, but it's back
today in our furniture,

our baby products.

So now I can understand how

they wouldn't want to

speak at the hearing

because there will be

hooting and hollering.


doing is we're testing all

of these mattresses and nap
mats for toxic chemicals.

So, this is the kind of
thing that my daughter

Gigi is sleeping on
today at preschool.

So, she sleeps on this and
it's soft, and the reason

it's soft is it's got
polyurethane foam in it.

Here, it's cut out
because we had to test

the polyurethane foam.

That's how we know it has
these toxic chemicals in it.

Now, if you think about
when you squeeze a nap mat

and some of the air comes
out, that air contains

a vapor of a carcinogen,
and it's right

in the breathing space
of the child that just

squeezed it by putting
their head down.

That's crazy and horrifying
for a guy whose 4-year-old

daughter is probably
in nap time right now

at preschool.

WOMAN: If you've
ever sat with the light

coming in, just right
into a window, and you see

someone sit down, when you sit,

there's a little poof

of dust that comes up.

And the flame retardants

are a part of the foam,

but they're not
bound very tightly.

These chemicals come out of
the foam, and they like to

attach to dust particles,
which then eventually come

back down and either,
you know, form a film

on your couch, or on
the floor, which is

where most kids spend
most of their time.

They're getting more
exposure because they're

touching everything
and then putting their

hands in their mouth.

And they have been
linked to a number

of heath problems.

BLUM: This is one
of my favorite slides.

It's an ad in the fifties
for DDT wallpaper in Walt

Disney designs.

And what that fifties mom
who's lovingly tucking

in her little baby
doesn't realize is her little

baby's chance of breast
cancer is much higher

because of the DDT wallpaper.

And that's the thing
about organohalogens.

It's not like they give
you a burn or a rash.

It's they go into
your body, they stay.

And over the course of
your life, they can cause

serious health problems.

And the very same
thing that makes

them desirable to chemical
companies as a flame

retardant, in many cases
is the very same thing that

worries people who study
environmental health.

They can be kind of volatile.

They can travel widely from
where they originally,

you know, start out at.

And they also often
can bioaccumulate,

and they're toxic.

It's like a trifecta
of concern with flame

retardant chemicals in
this country today.

BLUM: So, I have one
little chemistry lesson.

If we look at that molecule
on the top, you have

a polybrominated diphenyl ether.


PBDEs. They're found in over 90%

of Americans' bodies.

They're found in breast
milk and blood and urine,

and even in amniotic fluid.

And they accumulate
up the food chain.

And way at the top of
the food chain is

a nursing baby...

Marine mammals and
nursing babies.

So, our children have
3 times the level of adults.

So, these are chemicals we have

about a pound in your house.

Women with higher levels
take twice as long to

become pregnant.

Children, when
they have higher levels

at birth, have 4 to 6
points less IQ permanently.

There's a number of studies
trying to relate them to autism.

There are literally
thousands of papers showing

harm from these
flame retardants.

JANSSEN: Increased
rates of childhood learning

and behavioral problems.

Increased rates
of birth defects.

Adulthood cancers,
like testicular cancer.

And there is some good
evidence that flame

retardants are contributing
to the increased rates

of cancer in our firefighters.

Because the flame
retardants in their

chemical structure,
when they're burned

and when they are
volatilized or vaporized

into the air, they form
these toxic chemicals,

specifically things
like dioxins and furans,

which are known
cancer-causing chemicals.

And fires that have flame
retardants actually turn

out to be more toxic than
fires that don't have

these chemicals.

STEFANI: I know when you
guys took the job, and I

know when I took the job,
I didn't give a damn what

we were coming in contact with.

When we went into
a building on fire,

the object was to knock
the fire down as fast as we

could in the city,

and if there was life
involved, to save a life.

Tom, what do you think?

I think it's...

I think it's
important that we
realize that these fires

that we're going to now
are just an absolute

toxic soup,
the environment
we're entering into.

It's Three Mile Island.

It's... you know,
it's Love Canal,
and it's on fire.

And those chemicals
are sticking
on our equipment.

Those chemicals are
sticking on our skin.

We're seeing more
and more breast cancer

now in the female
firefighters, and we have

the highest percentage
of female firefighters

in the United States,
if not in the world.

[Radio transmissions]

WOMAN: All right.

Do you remember this one?

"I watched the rig disappear

"around the corner.

"I know what my firehouse

"family will do.

"When they get to the fire,

"they'll put on their air masks

and grab the hoses."

Many of our women were
getting breast cancer.

And I mean, there were...

I remember thinking,
"Wow. Is this...

"is this a high number,
or is this just normal?

Is this what just
happens in our lives?"

fire was on 45 Yosemite

Avenue in San Francisco,
off Third Street.

You go up the stairs,
I look right.

There's nothing. It's dark.

But I... there's no more heat,
there's no sound.

I look left. I see orange glow.

It's loud.
Oh, we're going that way.

My officer taps me on the
shoulder and he goes...

When Alison got sick,

her partner was pregnant.

And I remember I helped gather

the exposure reports.

The stations were great.

Everybody helped me
gather the report.

They went through
all the journals.

And I was...

I was really blown away

by all the toxins
we were exposed to.

[Radio transmissions]

KERR STONE: Alison's
death was probably

the biggest event
in my adult life.

She was my colleague.

And it really hit home.

It hit home about what we're
exposed to and that you

can get really sick...

and be this vibrant,
healthy, powerful person,

and have all the fight in
you you want, and not live.

It changed my perspective
on my job.

It didn't change my
love of the job.

It changed my realization
about what the job was,

and how much I was exposed to.

And I remember at the same time,

I had learned a little
while before that there

were toxins in breast milk.

I had talked to Tony.

I asked about that and
he said, "Oh, there is

"research on it, and
they are finding it from

flame retardants."

And I thought, "From
flame retardants?"

Here I was. I had breast-fed
my first child.

I thought I was giving
him the healthiest thing I

could possibly give him.

Going back to work and
still breastfeeding.

And I thought,
"What did I feed him?"

Maybe they're going too fast.

Now I feel like, well, all I can

do, at least now I know that
117 exists and that I

should read the label.

But most people have
no idea, then.

They have no idea.

And they think the
same thing I do.

They think, "I've got
this nice safe car seat,

this nice safe stroller,
this great breast pillow."

All right.
What are you
thankful for today?

I'm really thankful
for the pasta.

[Chuckles] That's a good one.

It seems like something's wrong

with this picture.

If it was banned in kids'
pajamas decades ago, why is

it still in so many products?

Because it's a lot less
likely that my child is

going to catch on fire when
I'm breast feeding than it

is that they might get
exposures to toxins.

It doesn't take a scientist
to figure that one out.

"They'll put out the flames..."

ROE, VOICE-OVER: You have sort
of an untold public health

threat that's in
everyone's home.

It's in everybody's home.

You know, the industry
has worked really hard to

downplay that health risk
and to promote this idea

that flame
retardants are working.

But if the science shows that

these chemicals don't
really even work the way

they're used, then why are
we getting the potential

risk and none of the benefit or

the purported benefit?

The people who make these
chemicals don't really want

people to ask that question.

[Machinery rumbling]

[Vehicle beeping]

retardants are also

an important part of
the fire safety toolbox.

Yet they go unnoticed
and in some cases

are misunderstood.

The major reason
for the reduction

of the fires is the fact
that flame retardants have

been incorporated into so
many materials in the home.

We first contacted
the American Chemistry

Council and asked them
for, you know, proof that

flame retardants work.

We just wanted to know.

This is very early on
in our reporting.

And they gave us the
government study by

Vito Babrauskas.

One of the findings was
that flame retardants would

give people in maybe a
residential home a 15 times

fold escape time in a fire.

If you had flame retardants
in your home, you would

have 15 times more time
to escape if those things

caught on fire.

That's what the industry said.

That's not what the study said.

That's... that was completely
wrong, and it was easy to prove

because we went to the
main author of that study

and said, "Here's what
they're saying your study says.

Is that true?"

And he said, "Absolutely not.
They're distorting it."

There was something very narrow
and specific and specialized

about that study.

All of the products we
tested were cost no object,

state of the art materials.

The items that were
tested were not tested

under real-world conditions.

These items had NASA-style
flame retardants

added to it.

They used the most potent,
expensive flame retardants,

and they put these
in these experimental items.

And lo and behold,
it proved that flame

retardants work.

But that is not the furniture

when we go into
a retailer and say, "I want

a new living room sofa."

And so the industry said, "Look.

"This study shows that you get
15 times fold escape time."

But no, not unless your
furniture is made by NASA,

you won't.

Now, California and TB117

is basically the opposite
extreme of the scale.

They put in a very small
amount, on the order

of 3% to 5%.

And once you do that,
you get the worst of both

possible worlds.

BABRAUSKAS: These pieces
of foam are tested

naked, just a piece of foam.

Now I know absolutely
nobody who has in his

living room a piece
of naked foam that they sit on.

It's just plain old...

This is from my house, actually.

We redecorated.

My wife said I
could have this one.

What we've got here is a
piece of foam that we took

out, and it was tested,
and it has the penta in it,

which is a pentabromo
diphenyl ether.

Let's see if we can make a
piece that we'll cover up

with a piece of fabric.

LUCAS: What we've found is that

when the fabric catches fire,

if it catches fire,

you can end up with a much

bigger flame.

And when you have a really

large flame, we found that

the materials used, even if

they've been treated with fire

retardants, can burn.

In fact, when they do burn,

they can produce smoke that

can be more toxic than

untreated materials.

That's a pretty intense
fire, a lot of smoke

coming off.

MAN: And that foam was...

This foam passes TB117.

maybe a slight benefit

of a few seconds of
ignition time, something

like that, from a fire
safety point of view,

but you do get great gobs
more of noxious chemicals

that are put out in the smoke,
and they are going to

be toxic to human beings.

CALLAHAN: Vito Babrauskas,
he explained to me

that by the time
the fabric cover burns

and the flames reach the
foam inside that's treated

with flame retardants,
what he said to me was

the fire just laughs at it.

ROE: That was a study
that was sort of easy to

disprove because the
author himself, after many,

many years, came out and said,
"No, they're distorting it,

and I want them to stop."

So, they manipulated
your research

to suit their needs?

Well, in an exceedingly blatant

and disgraceful way, yes.

And they wouldn't stop.
They just kept going.

It made me think that some
of these other studies that

they've been using over the
years, you know, might have

similar problems.

Then they came up with the
Simonson study, saying that

the study out of Sweden
proved all these things.

There have been several studies,
particularly in Sweden.

The Swedish National
Research and Testing Lab SP,

with Margaret Simonson
and her group

at SP found, is that you
have orders of magnitude

better environment
from the point of view

of toxicity, when you have
materials that are...

Products that are
more fire safe.

It's just incredible.

And if you drill down on this
study, you'll find that

the foundation of all
those broad claims are

an obscure study...

So obscure that it's only
available in Swedish.

[Woman speaking Swedish]

ROE: It's a government report
out of Sweden 15 years ago

that has nothing to do
with flame retardants.

And the study is so
obscure, the industry

doesn't have a copy.

You can't find it online.

It's not published anywhere.

And we had to go
to the only library

in the world that I could
find that has a copy of it,

the National Library of
Sweden, to get a copy.

And then we had it
translated in English.

And what you'll find is
that all these broad claims

that they've been
making are based

on 8 TV fires
that occurred outside

of Stockholm in '95 and '96.

Well, that logic is so

fundamentally flawed
because it's such

a small sample.

But once they made that claim...

That because of those
8 TV fires, flame

retardants work...

They used that finding
and that logic to do

other studies.

So, then they could say,
"Well, it reduces pollution

"because there's fewer fires.

"It saves society millions
of dollars because flame

"retardants work.

It saves money."

Basically, that's the main
study that they highlight.

I thought there
would be a lot of studies

that support that flame
retardants work, that

the industry would have more
in their... they'd have more

ammunition than what they had.

They basically had two,
and both of them...

Both of their
arguments were really

fundamentally flawed.

With a normal cover...

as furniture goes, when we

looked into it we found
that government scientists

and independent scientists
have looked at this over

and over again and have
found they provide no

meaningful benefit
for consumers.

And so it's, you know,
they don't work.

Now, the good news
is: fire-related

deaths have decreased
significantly, not only

in this country but
throughout the western

world because we have
rightfully required that

all new construction have
sprinkler systems and smoke

alarms and that cigarettes

So, we've changed the way
we deal with fire risk already.

The second thing is there
are ways to mandate that

the fabric meet a certain
weave and thickness standard

with no chemicals
added that makes it

resistant to fire caused by
small flames or cigarettes

even it helps with
the cigarette problem,

and all of that has
nothing to do with chemicals.

My view is today,
you can have fire safety

without the use of
fire retardant chemicals.

So, again,
then why are we requiring

that products be made with
these potentially and known

dangerous chemicals?

When I contracted cancer,

I got to the point where I
had run out or was close to

running out of my sick
time, my vacation time.

I got to the point where
there was going to be

no money coming into my house
for my family, my two sons.

At that time, I was a captain.

There was approximately 200
officers that were able to

donate time to me.

And just about every single one

of those 200 that had time
donated time to me so I

could continue to go
through my treatment,

recovery, and put
a paycheck on my table.

I called every single
one of those people up

and thanked them
for what they did.

But... I didn't
think it was enough.

And then a crazy thing happened.

I was involved in a pretty lousy

cycling accident.

I was out getting
some exercise, and got hit

by a pickup truck.

My doctor at UCSF told me,

"Tony, you're here
for a reason."

It was in the back of my
mind, and I said,

"You know, doc, you're right.

"I'm going to try to put
a non-profit foundation

together, and work
toward preventing cancer

in firefighters
here in the city."

What are you hoping
is going to
happen today?

What are you looking forward to?

Well, it's the first time our

foundation has actually had

a sit-down roundtable conference

with researchers
in the cancer field.

We're hoping to get a pla...

A game plan together
here in San Francisco

to look at the problem
we have with

both the men and the women

in this department
contracting cancers at

pretty alarming rates.

We are fully aware of
Technical Bulletin 117

that has been
put in place since the 1970s

here in the state of
California that has to do

with flame retardants.

We know that it's
an outdated standard.

We know that the chemicals
they use are carcinogenic.

We know that the off gas
during a fire,

that off gas is
furons and dioxin.

WOMAN: I mean, this is
a fundamental shift for us.

Like, how many of you
have walked into the station

and you can smell smoke
and you go [inhales],

"They had a fire last night"?

We've all done that.

When I hear all this,
I want to either go,

"La la la la la, because
I like my job, la la la la,"

or run out of the room.

You know, one of the challenges

we face in doing advocacy work
is, you know,

the chemical industry,
which would like

to continue to create
these chemicals,

are requiring or trying
to sell the fact

that we need
incontrovertible evidence

to take steps to
regulate these chemicals.

We are... you can't
experiment on human beings.

The closest we do is
what we do to you, really,

which is we send you
into a bunch of

really toxic environments,
and you come out

and we see what happens.

And we don't even look that

closely at what happens,
and we should.

And I think that's
part of what we're

trying to say here.

But we're never... even if we...

KERR STONE: I've had
co-workers die in fires.

And I've had a lot
more die of cancer.

It seems important
that we do something.

Before I joined
the Fire Department,

I was in research,
working at UCSF.

And so I ended up
learning from Tony

that they could use some help.

Tony's starting to do
research to try and link

the specific chemicals
that are released

at different kinds of fires.

I thought, "This is...
I would love to do this.

"This is fascinating. I can

"cross-reference it online,
and try and find out

what's out there,
and make this a little easier."

Not to stop what we do,
but to educate us.

We have to make sure we're
safe so that we can then

take care of other people.

Years ago,
when Tony and I started this,

in order to get
attention for it, we put

a pair of boots out on
the steps of City Hall

for every firefighter who
died with their boots off.

We wanted the world to know
that a lot of firefighters

die in a hospice,
they die in a hospital bed,

or they die at home.

And they don't get
the folded flag,

and they don't get the hero's
ceremony, but they should.

And this is the first time

since Tony and I
have started this

that I feel like someone's
listening to our call for help.

So, I wanted to thank you
very much for doing this.

We have a problem.
We're contracting cancer.

We can do so much
to protect ourselves.

But if we could eliminate
the problem to begin with,

the problem would
no longer exist.

Here we have this
unique situation.

California is, in a sense,
causing poisoning of...

Of the country and Canada,
and maybe the world,

when we should stop it
here in its tracks.

And so, how do you stop that?

BLUM: You know, there is always

a chance it could get
through the Assembly.

If we don't try,
we'll never get anywhere.

We were working...

Trying to work with the
industry over the... somewhere...

5, 6, 7 years ago.

One of my staffers
suggested that I go to

Berkeley on a Sunday night
for a dinner party that

a chemist from UC Berkeley
was hosting at her home.

This would be Arlene Blum.

And that there would
be some other

community activists there,
and the subject matter was

the proliferation of
brominated and chlorinated

flame retardants
in consumer products.

And that Arlene was
going to suggest that

I author a bill that would
ban these chemicals

from these products,
and begin to mitigate

some of the damage that's been
done to the environment.

I think there's
a snowball rolling here.

So, maybe we might
need to adjust

this myth a little bit
to reflect

the great burden thing head on...

There's gonna be above them

agencies who are
gonna have to...

Is there fewer fire deaths,
it's because of

fire sprinklers
and smoke detectors

and not flame retardants.

We need to organize
the key people

who should be
interested in this.

Putting these pieces together,

calendaring out what
the next couple months

to a year is going to look like.

we show that you can prevent

these chemicals
from being out there,

that you don't have
to go to the store

and try and be a chemist,

and look at every single
label, and, you know,

spend more money, or just
not know if you're buying

the safest thing
for your family.

If we can change that on
the front end, that's what

I'm dedicating my time to.

BLUM: Welcome, Don.

We were just talking about you.

Oh, look what he brought...

His nursing pillow.

He's got a new baby.

And there's
chlorinated Tris

LUCAS: In a way, I fault
the scientific community

for not being
more vocal in talking about

these sort of things.

And so, to me, the more
scientists we get involved

in the combustion
aspects of this

and the health aspects of this,

the better the answer
that we're going to get.

So, Dr. Vito Babrauskas,

we're very pleased
to have you here today.

a ethical obligation that

I really don't want my
profession to do harm

in the name of
promoting fire safety.

The group that was lined up

in support of changing
Technical Bulletin 117,

it wasn't just a few
environmental activists.

You know, it was firefighters
who had been sick.

And it was nursing moms.

And it was public
health advocates

and it was scientists.

It was a diverse group.

Ultimately, here's what
it all boils down to.

My work of 40 years
boils down to this.

Either you have people
behind you or money behind you.

And we don't have the money.

[Birds cawing]

Boat mail today.
We're getting
boat mail today.

WOMAN: This is
an island of 350 people.

Literally you
have to be involved

to live in this town.


I don't want to kiss that baby.

I grew up with the sense that

if you want to fix something,

everybody has got
to pitch in and help.

Wait. Let me see on...

I think I had
a cell phone
for her somewhere.

WOMAN: I would like
to introduce the Maine

Speaker of the House,
Representative Hannah Pingree.

Welcome to the State House...

I think I was... 2003, 2004,

I was a freshman legislator.

And a group of folks who work on

environmental issues said,
you know, "We're thinking

"about putting forward
this bill to ban

"the group of brominated
flame retardants.

"And we need a legislator
who's kind of willing

to take on a fight against
the chemical industry."

And for some reason,
they decided

that a 25-year-old legislator
was the right choice.

And, of course, you know,
I was up for big fights,

and I was like,
"Let's go for it."

When they first came to me,
you know, even the name

of all the chemicals...

Penta, octa, deca...

I mean, it was like
chemical soup.

But the more I learned
about the issue,

the more I thought, "This is
absolutely outrageous that,

"you know, our entire
environment is filled

"with these chemicals

"and no one's really
talking about it.

No one's really
taking action on it."

I had my own body tested
in 2006 for toxic chemicals.

I said, "I'm
willing to do this."

I was one of 13 Mainers tested.

I said, "I'm willing to do this

"for the stake of, you know,
good public policy and science.

Sure, you can have my hair,
blood, and urine."

I always thought,
you know, here I am.

I grew up on this
beautiful island

off the coast of Maine.

You know, I spent a few
years living in cities,

but I've mostly lived
on this island

or in this very clean place.

So, when I had my body tested,

I assumed I would be better
off than most of the people

who lived, you know,

even in more industrial
areas of my state.

But when the results came
back, and I saw that I had

all these chemicals
in my body, including

flame retardants, including
mercury and arsenic

and, you know, BPA
and phthalates at levels

that were high enough
to impact my health or

the health of a developing,
you know, child, I suddenly...

You know, I went from being

a policy maker
who cared about this

to a person who was,
you know, really angry

about the fact that this
could be impacting my health.

It's one thing to say
to the chemical industry,

you know, "More Americans

"have these flame retardants
in them compared to Europe,

where they've started
to phase them out."

And you can make
a real technical argument.

But when you can say,
"I have these flame

retardants in me."

And, you know,
it makes me angry.

You know, Maine doesn't
require flame retardants

to be in our couches
or computers.

This came from, you know,
the state of California

and that's now impacting me
all the way

on the other coast, in Maine.

You know, it's a good
lesson in public policy,

but it's also something
that should make

a lot of people angry.

I ask you to consider today
that the real motivation

of our opponents is to sell
more fire retardants

at any cost, including
the health and safety

not only of our
kids, but of every

human generation hereafter
through genetic mutation

and lingering poisons
that have contaminated

our homes, our waters,
our wildlife,

and even our mothers' milk.

AB706 provides
a robust framework...

LENO, VOICE-OVER: The first time
that we introduced a bill

on the subject,
the chemical industry

spent over $6 million
on a multimedia,

multi-million dollar campaign
of full-page color ads

in newspapers up and down
the state of California...

Radio commercials, robocalls,
mailers to households,

and television commercials...
Urging voters

to contact their
state legislator

to vote against this bill.

The California legislature

is considering a bill that
will endanger our children.

We cannot afford to take
our safety for granted.

The furnishings inside
the average home

will contribute to most
of the flame spread

and fire spread.

So those furnishings
need to be protected

by a fire retardant material...

They ran television commercials
on TV in Maine for weeks,

saying that Maine legislators

were trying to ban
this flame retardant

that would literally cause
people's homes to burn down.

They spent hundreds of
thousands of dollars to try

to convince the Maine people
that the Maine legislature

was about to do
something very dangerous.

And the entire campaign
was based on fear

that your house will burn down,
your child will die of flames.

I care about flame retardants
and fire safety

because I see what happens
to burn survivors every day

and I go though it
myself every day,

and as a result of that,
I cannot support

legislation which threatens
to remove flame retardants

from fabrics and other
things that protect our people.

Say no to laws that put

our children in danger.

This whole campaign of TV ads

and newspaper ads
and, you know, hiring an army

of lobbyists, I mean,
that's not something

Maine sees very often.

I mean, that happens
maybe more often

in New York or California.

That never happens in Maine.

LENO: Why would we want
to tie ourself

to something 35 years old,
and close our minds

to any possibility that
we might know more now,

and there might be a better way
to address fire safety?

There was a bill in California

that would have changed
Technical Bulletin 117.

I went to that really not
knowing what I was going to see.

You're going to hear a lot of
conflicting testimony today,

and what I'd like to do
is just to remind you...

And there was a group called

Citizens for Fire Safety
that was fighting it.

And I was really curious about

Citizens for Fire Safety,
really curious.

MAN: Mr. Chairman, members.
Joe Lang, representing

Citizens for Fire Safety

You know, rumor on the street

was that Citizens
for Fire Safety

was the chemical industry.

But I didn't see evidence
that proved it.

Was it really a front group?

That was... you know, that was
one of the questions.

And I have to be
able to pin it down.

I have to be able
to document it.

It's not just
rumor and innuendo.

You got to prove it.

And I think what fascinated me
about Citizens for Fire Safety

from the get-go
was... their website.

It had this picture of these
5 smiling children holding up

a banner that said "Fire Safety"

with a little heart
dotting the "I."

And behind them is
a red brick fire station.

You know, it could be on
any corner in America.

It was very...
This very wholesome,

Americana kind of picture

of "We're all
about fire safety."

OK, so what they said
was that they were

"a coalition of fire
professionals, educators,

"community activists,
burn centers, doctors,

"fire departments,
and industry leaders,

"united to ensure that
our country is protected by

the highest standards
of fire safety."

We already have the highest

fire safety standard of
any state in the country.

To change that standard,
and yet somehow not

compromise fire safety,
it's just...

It's not logical,
it doesn't make sense,

and it can't be done.

You know, right from the start,

lots of chemical industry
people showed up and told us

that all the science
that had come out was false,

and everything we were
saying was baloney.

So, clearly, they had
a lot at stake.

I mean, this young legislator
in this tiny state of Maine

was taking on a chemical that

was making a lot
of money for them.

Flame retardants are important
to do the job to save lives.

Thank you.

STEFANI: My name
is Tony Stefani.

I'm a retired captain
with the San Francisco

Fire Department...

on behalf of Senate Bill 147.

And I watched the state senators

on the subcommittee
actually not even

pay attention to the testimony
that was being given

by experts, scientists
that say that this

technical bulletin
has to be changed.

There are safer products
out there that can be used.

But I did see them perk up
when they had people there

from the chemical industry talk.

It was pretty discouraging.

That if we continue
to ban chemicals

that are developed
before they're used,

we won't have any
chemicals to use,

and you won't be able to create

the new jobs that people want

to create here in California.

And I do want to point out,

once again, that as I was
surrounded by this opposition,

I was the only one
at this table that was

not receiving dollars
from the chemical industry.

AstroTurf organizations are

a phenomenon that's
from the, you know,

sort of the mid-to late
20th century,

where corporate America decided,

"Oh, there's ways to create

"phony groups that appear
to be consumer groups.

But what they do
and work on is our agenda."

So, what do they do is,
quote unquote,

"Citizen non-profit
doing fire prevention."

They give grants
to fire departments.

They worked their way in
with their line of BS.

They donate money to different
funding activities

that a fire department
might be doing.

But the the back lot activity
is sort of sickening.

A couple partners called and
asked us about flame retardants.

They were all communities
of color, and they had

been contacted by
Citizens for Fire Safety

because Citizens for Fire
Safety was saying that,

"Your community is
affected more by fires.

"Therefore, this legislation
in California is going to

cause more fires and deaths
in your community."

Tim Martinez, Hispanic Chamber
of Stanislaus County.

We oppose the measure.

MALE VOICE ON TV: Thank you.

MASCARENAS: They convinced them
that these are

crazy environmentalists
and all they want to do is,

you know, all they
want to do is protect

the environment, not people.

WOMAN: My name is Kiki Vo,

I'm a burn survivor, and I
greatly oppose this bill.

We were, are outraged.

It's exploitation.
It's manipulative.

Imagine hearing someone you love

say, "I love you,"
and that might be

the last time that you will
hear them say that.

So please vote no on SB 772,
and keep us safe from fire.

WOMAN: Thank you
for your testimony.

So, when you look into
Citizens for Fire Safety,

here's what you find.

You know, people think that
investigative reporting is,

you know, meeting with
mysterious tipsters

in parking garages,
and mostly it's just

looking through
really boring documents

and finding little
puzzle pieces, little gems.

So this is one of the gems.

So this is the 2010
franchise tax report

that they filed with
the state of Delaware.

And you have to list
your headquarters,

your principal place
of business.

And sure enough, when I
looked up this address

in Reno, Nevada, it's just
a mail forwarding service.

It literally is 24-hour access

at a prestigious
California Avenue address

in tax-free Nevada.

So, its headquarters,
according to this form,

is a mail forwarding service.

That piqued my interest.

But again, I still didn't have
who are the members?

There's still a chance
that they could be truly

a broad coalition, right?

So, sure enough, good,
old California form 602.

You have to list
the number of members

in your association.

It says, "Check
appropriate box."

So they check the "50 or less."

Well, in parentheses, it says,

"Provide names of all members
on an attachment."

So you would think there would
be an attachment there, right?

This is all online.

If you look at that document,
there's no attachment.

There was no list.

So I asked the Secretary of
State's Office in California

to go through their archives
and find that list.

It's a public record.

It's not like I was
asking for a favor.

It's a public record.
It should've been in there.

So, sure enough, the day
that this arrived,

it was a very,
very big day for me

because here is the list of
the Citizens for Fire Safety

Institute member list.

Take a look.

Is it a broad coalition? No.

It is the 3 largest makers of
flame retardants in the world.

And ultimately,
one of my colleagues

flew over
the plant where they make

their flame retardants.

And it's not a
red brick fire station.

It's an industrial
compound and everything

you would imagine
a chemical company would be.

This was one of
those moments, though,

in the reporting where had
they showed up and said,

you know, "We are the chemical...

"we are the voice of
the chemical industry

and here are the reasons why
we think this law is wrong,"

I might have walked
away from it at that point.

But that's not what they did.
They were lying.

The group was presenting itself
as something it was not.

And it was presenting
itself to the public,

it was presenting itself
to firefighters,

it was presenting
itself to state legislatures...

as something it wasn't.

[Dog barking]

Chemical industry

had a huge amount of money,

lots of scare tactics.

They were doing
everything possible.

They spent hundreds of
thousands of dollars

to try to influence Mainers
and Maine legislators.

And they had so little
impact in the end.

I mean, we had pregnant women
and public health groups

and firefighters
all coming to say,

"This chemical is bad
for people's health.

There are safer alternatives.
It needs to go."

We ended up, I think, passing
nearly unanimously.

I mean, we had people on
both sides of the aisle

deciding that this was
the right thing to do.

As soon as I took on that
one first bill, I think

I sponsored 4 or
5 more after that.


Maine had this great system

of clean elections.

I could run for the
House of Representatives

with $5,000, and literally
just knocking on the doors

of my neighbors.

I didn't have TV ads.

I didn't have
anything like that.

See ya!

think people in Maine don't

appreciate a lot of
out-of-state money coming in.

And they knew from these TV ads

that were very slick and very
extreme that the wool...

Some kind of wool was being
pulled over their eyes.

Clearly, despite spending
a lot of money, the public

didn't call after
seeing all those TV ads.

They didn't show up and protest.

They said, "Good for you,
Maine legislators.

Like, I don't trust
the chemical industry."

It didn't pan out
that way in California.

I'm wonderfully naive when
I jump into a subject matter.

I had no clue the kind of opposition
we were going to be facing.

To determine the safety

of chemicals used
to meet California's...

The first year, we just wanted

an outright ban.

Get these chemicals out.

And the industry
easily defeated us.

So then we decided
we'll take another stab at it.

We're talking about cribs
and strollers and backpacks...

Again, items that children
have the most daily

and intimate contact with.

Federal government has
determined no fire risk.

In fact, I have...

We were defeated by

the chemical industry yet again.

But so then we thought, "OK,
we'll address it another way.

"What if we allowed for
some other method of meeting

"the fire safety standard?

Let the consumer decide."
When you hear these

business interests arguing
against deregulation,

I think there is
some irony in that.

"Regulations working
just fine for us.

Government, stay
out of our lives."

I would ask for your "ay" vote.

Yet another time.

Neurological and developmental

reduced IQ, endocrine
disruption, and cancer.

We were defeated yet again.

One of the unfortunate aspects
of the business

in which I find myself as
a lawmaker is that we have

a symbiotic relationship
with the lobbying industry.

What I think a lot of
voters don't understand

is that the very lobbyists
who may be in my office trying

to convince me that
their point of view

on a particular issue is
the point of view that

I should hold so that I will
vote in a particular way

is the very same individual
that I may be calling from

across the street
3 days later to invite

to my quarterly fundraiser
and asking for a contribution.

And it could look
very crass and quid pro quo.

And I'm not blaming any of
my colleagues for anything

because it's not a good
system at its core.

WOMAN: Whether it's
lead, mercury,

or flame retardants,
the assumption is that

somebody's minding the store,
and that somebody is trying

to prevent harm
and prevent exposure.

And we have this burden
of proof to show you

that we've been harmed.

That's a standard that is
very difficult for many

communities to meet.

And they rely on you to
protect them from this.

And their assumption is
that somebody is preventing

these chemicals from
getting in the environment

and getting in our bodies,
and leaving a legacy

of contamination
for our grandchildren

and nephews and nieces.

Thank you.

MAN: People assume
the government is

keeping us safe
and protecting us from

this kind of behavior,
but that's actually not true.

It's not true, and why
should a small nonprofit

with 25 staff have
to do something to protect

people from companies
that have literally

billions of dollars
and thousands

or even tens or hundreds
of thousands of employees?

That's just not right.

I hear that the EPA is

this awful, you know,
Nazi-like organization

that is coming
down hard on businesses

and whatnot... we've got this
very perverse system right now.

There's 84,000 chemicals
being used in commerce.

84,000 chemicals... almost
none of those have been

tested adequately for their
health impacts.

This law, the Toxic Substances

Control Act from 1976...

Most of the chemicals that

were already on
the market were just

rolled in and said,
you know, "Everything's fine."

How one agency can then do
the science on 84,000 chemicals

with another thousand or so
being invented each year

and say, categorically,
"This one's safe, this one's

not safe," on the budget
they have is just ridiculous.

Especially in an era
when Congress is cutting budgets

and saying that the EPA
should do less.

I think the best thing
I've ever heard about this

is from a researcher
at NYU who said

that we are in the middle
of a giant uncontrolled

experiment on American children.

It's not just with
flame retardants.

It's with scores of these
toxic chemicals that are

in our baby products,
that are in our toys,

that are in
our furniture, our TVs,

basically everything
that's in our homes.

Most of the chemicals
that are in those products

haven't been tested or
if they have been tested,

it's very difficult to do
anything about them

if those tests found
that they cause harm.

GREEN: There is going to be
eventually some change,

and the reason there is
going to be some change

is the system is
so profoundly broken that

sooner or later,
something will give.


In our series, we called this
a decades-long

campaign of deception.

We talked about how
they distorted science.

We talked about
Citizens for Fire Safety

being a front group.

Those are not words I throw
about trivially.

Those are words that we
back up with documents

that show deception.

ROE: Some editors
read through it.

Our lawyers read
through this material.

Everything has to be
completely factual.

You have to have
every nuance correct.

Because you don't want,
at the end of the day,

someone picking up the
newspaper and saying,

"Well, you missed
this little fact."

You don't want to...

You don't want to
make one little error.

Because if they say,
you know, "He got this wrong.

Imagine all the other things
that are wrong in here."

And so, I mean, that
means everything to us.

You never know.

You never know when
you write a story

what's going to
resonate with people.

So you kind of put it out
there, and hope that people

are going to read it,
and hope that

someone's going to read it
and it's going to empower

somebody to try
and solve a problem, right?

The science doesn't reach people
the way journalism does.

But there's got to be ultimately

national, over and over
media coverage

for this issue to rise
to the level it should be at

in the public consciousness.

And when the public is educated
and knows about it,

then our advocacy efforts, our
lobbying efforts with no money

in state capitals or
the federal level, have power.

seemed like it just wasn't gonna

happen this year, and that
we should instead redirect

our focus on the governor.

And this has been working out.

The governor issued
an amazing press release,

which he wrote himself,
that was so accurate

on the lack of
fire safety benefit

and all the harm from
the flame retardants.

[Telephone ringing]

The first regulation in '75,
that's a reform.

But what I found
is that every reform

at some point needs a reform.

And there's been resistance
because you have a reform,

someone figures out
a way to satisfy it,

fix the foam up, fill it
full of chemicals,

make lots of money,
so why change?

It's very hard to make
these changes, but when

the science reaches a point
where, "Wow, that's not good

and it's peer-reviewed and we
know it," then we take action.

We're here today. In June,

the governor directed the Bureau

to review and revise
our current upholstered

furniture flammability standard,

currently known as TB117.

LENO: Of course I want to thank

Governor Jerry Brown,

who has changed the course
of this discussion

once and for all,
that we can do better.

We want to bring
Technical Bulletin 117

into the 21st century.

I'm Arlene Blum. I'm...

BLUM, VOICE-OVER: I have to say,
you know, I've been talking

about this for about 5 years,
where I've just felt

like this boring lady
where you want to kind of move

away from her at the dinner
party because all she does

is talk about flame retardants.

And I had really wondered
if I would go to my grave

being the boring lady ranting
about flame retardants.

And then suddenly,
after the "Tribune" article

and the governor's press
release, people like

Dick Durbin, who's the Majority
Whip in the Senate,

were ranting about flame
retardants, and were really mad.

[Cheering and applause]

We need to protect these
children and these families

when it comes to
toxic chemicals.

Let me tell you what
the bottom line is.

The "Chicago Tribune" series
made it clear

that over a span of
decades... decades...

There was a campaign of
marketing and deception.

Makes no difference
whether your grandbaby is

a Democrat, a Republican,
or an Independent.

We need to stand together
as families across America

to protect these kids.

Thank you for being here today.

[Cheering and applause]

Health advocates
and the chemical industry

are facing off
in Washington this week.

It's a move to update
safety standards

for chemicals used
in everyday products.

Today Barbara Boxer's
Senate subcommittee

met to discuss the overhaul of

the 1970s federal
chemical regulation.

The Safe Chemicals Act
would allow the EPA

to require proof
that they are safe

before they're
put on the market.

Among those testifying is

a San Francisco firefighter.

[Camera shutter clicks]

I was contacted by

Senator Lautenberg's office

and asked to go back
to Washington, DC

to testify before
a Senate committee

in favor of the
Safe Chemicals Act.

I've been in enough
situations in my life

that dealt with
life or death, on the job

as well as what
I've gone through.

And these are
our representatives.

They're working for us.
Why should I be intimidated?

"The rates of contracting
various forms of cancer

"in the firefighting profession
is increasing.

"We are also fully aware that
these flame retardant chemicals

"bioaccumulate in our blood.

"Senator Lautenberg,
Senator Lautenberg.


Our meeting starts at
10 a.m. this morning.

I'm ready.

BOXER: The hearing
will come to order.

The purpose of this hearing
is to review the need to

reform the Toxic Substances
Control Act,

otherwise known as TSCA,
the primary law that regulates

chemicals in this country.

STEFANI: What we understand
right now is that these are

important chemicals that
have to be dealt with

because of their
bioaccumulative process

that is actually proven
in medical science right now.


My name is Hannah Pingree, and I
thank you for this invitation.

I am here as the former
Speaker of the Maine House.

that Washington is now

really seemingly paying
attention is exciting.

I definitely did not
imagine myself, you know,

sitting next to the
Chemtura lobbyists

and the other industry
lobbyists, and a great

California firefighter.

But I, you know,
I felt good about it.

I felt like, "I am exactly
what we're talking about.

"I am a pregnant woman
who is being

impacted by these chemicals
and so I should be here."

The Senate bill would mandate

a new round of EPA review
for every new use

of a previously
approved chemical,

and every significant increase
in use of an existing chemical.

The implications for EPA's
overburdened resources,

for EPA's ability to prioritize,

and for industry's
ability to innovate

would be very significant.

MAN: Let me try
to get an answer
to my first question.

Does Chemtura concede
any danger from its...

From these two
flame retardants that

you've identified?

Again, in terms of
the expected exposures,

in 2006 EPSE published
expected exposures

and predicted exposures of TBB.

And those are much lower
than any level that would e...

Was predicted to have
any sort of an effect.

So, in those terms,
the answer to
your question

would be that, no, those
are, those are safe.

MAN: They're perfectly safe. OK.

In Maine, we had
an industry front group.

We had many of the companies

represented at this table,
the American Chemistry Council,

spending huge amounts of money,

misleading legislators,
and doing whatever they could.

I don't trust these
companies to tell

the truth about their
chemicals, and I don't think

the American public or you,
as senators, should, either.

BOXER: I want
to thank all of you

for coming here today.

So I have a question

I want each of you
to answer yes or no.

There's no other answer,
just yes or no.

And I'm gonna start with Hannah.

Do you agree that
chemical manufacturers

should have to prove
through unbiased studies

that their products are safe
for pregnant women, for infants,

and for children before
they can sell those

chemicals in the United States?



I... yes, I agree.

Could you repeat the question?

BOXER: Do you agree that
chemical manufacturers

should have to prove
through unbiased studies

that their products are
safe for pregnant women,

for infants, and for
children before they can

sell those chemicals
in the United States?


BOXER: No, not respectfully.

Yes or no.

The question cannot be answered
without explanation.

BOXER: Mr. Stefani.

Yes. BOXER: Thank you.

Let me just say, I know
that it's a little harder

for lawyers to answer yes or no.

But this one?

that they are holding hearings

and paying attention
is a big deal.

They got that it wasn't
just about flame retardants.

It was about the big picture.

But the reality is,
the American Chemistry Council

is working absolutely
overtime to try

to influence members of
Congress to stop this bill.

They know that it has traction
with the American public,

so they don't want it
to get out really into

the light of the day.

If it's on the floor
of the Senate,

they know it's problematic.

Because when you get
a group of moms angry,

politicians don't want to be
on the other side of them.

[Chanting "Toxic chemicals
got to go"]

We brought the signatures
of 130,000 Americans with us,

gathered by... [Crowd cheering]

We are delivering these
signatures to our senators

to show how many
people want action.

When people's voices
are heard, you know,

retailers might
start taking action.

Those kinds of
changes are happening.

But the only reason
they happen is that

regular people have
stood up and said, "Look.

"We're... we don't want to...
You know,

we don't want
to take it anymore."

So if there's
a furniture company that

wants to be a part of
the solution, we want to

meet with them, we want
to collaborate with them,

we want to actually
triangulate with them

to force the chemical
companies to stop making

those furniture companies
to use their chemicals.

And then, for companies that
actually are just looking

for a quick buck, we're
gonna kick them in the nuts

and force them to stop.

Citizens for Fire Safety,
they folded.

So... they said they're folded.

The website with
the smiling children

and the red brick
Americana firehouse,

that doesn't exist anymore.

You know, I think
the big question is,

will the world change?

It's not just our furniture.

It's not just California
Technical Bulletin 117.

It really is about how
we, as a society,

view chemicals, how we
vet them or don't vet them.

And who are we listening to
when we're being told

these chemicals are safe,
they work, they protect us,

they're essential to our lives?

Who are we listening to?

That's really, I think,
the crux of it.

STEFANI: So we're really excited

about the new Technical
Bulletin 117 2013 that's

going to be put in place to
eliminate these toxic chemicals.

Well, I'm optimistic
when a small band

of a thousand people
or two thousand people

can take on a multi-billion-
dollar industry and say

we will stop you from using
those poisonous chemicals

in our furniture.

We did that on people power.

However, I don't think
that we can celebrate yet.

I hope that what we did
in California is, in a way,

inspirational for the rest
of the country, to

in their legislatures, in
Congress and so on, to turn

the spigot off on these poisons
and have sane chemical policy.

Do you want some milk? Yeah.

His name is Graham Alison
Kerr Stone.

And Graham is a family name.

And then Alison is our
friend who passed away,

Alison Greene.

So we said, first baby,
we said, "OK, it's a boy.

"We'll give this another shot.

If we have a girl, she can have
Alison as her middle name."

Well, we have a boy with Alison
as his middle name.

Right after her... in her memory
and her spirit.

Seeing firefighters

that I worked with for years

succumb to this hideous disease
called cancer,

it has a profound effect
on my life on a daily basis.

I know when I came in in 1974,

I was not concerned
about cancer.

It was the last
thing on my mind.

Every time that we rolled
out our doors, we were

going out for one reason,
and that was to help somebody.

And when you have a big fire,
it gets to the point where,

OK, we draw the line right here,

and this is as far as
that fire is going to go.

We're going to put it out.

You don't let the fire win.
We win.