Kaiser Permanente banning PU flame retardant from furniture buys

By Gayle S. Putrich
Staff Reporter

Published: June 5, 2014 11:13 am ET
Updated: June 5, 2014 11:21 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Materials, Public Policy, Medical furniture

WASHINGTON — The largest nonprofit health management organization in the United States announced June 3 it will stop buying furniture made with polyurethane that contains flame retardants.

Kaiser Permanente intends to avoid purchasing products that contain any type of chemical flame retardant, including Firemaster 550 and others that remain federally approved for use out of concern for exposing patients and clients to increasing levels of potentially harmful or toxic chemicals in the environment.

Kaiser spends about $30 million each year furnishing its 38 hospitals and 600 medical office buildings in eight states and the District of Columbia.

“Our mission is the health of our patients and of our communities … and that mission includes paying attention to pollutants that can cause illness,” Kathy Gerwig, vice president and environmental stewardship officer at Kaiser, said during a call with reporters June 3. “We are the first health care system to make this change,” she added, “but we expect many more announcements to be forthcoming.”

The company says it is working with its furniture manufacturers to meet the revised standards, and expects to see flame retardant-free furnishings in its hospitals over the next one to three years.

“Kaiser Permanente is creating national momentum in the health care sector for abandoning flame retardant chemicals in exchange for safer alternatives,” said Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm and the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, in a news release. “The Healthier Hospitals Initiative is working with 1,000 hospitals across the country to protect public health and prevent disease through implementing sustainability strategies. We will utilize this broad hospital network to drive toxic flame retardants out of healthcare and create the demand for their phase out from our schools and homes as well.”

Kaiser has already used its high profile and significant buying power to lead the way on other, smaller materials selection changes, including encouraging a move away from vinyl, carpets that include PVC and other “chemicals of concern” and heavy metals.

“Kaiser continues to lead the way in putting its money behind its commitments to provide a safe environment for its customers and workers,” said Andy Igrejas, director of advocacy group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families said. “This policy is broad enough, and Kaiser is big enough, that this decision will have a positive impact on public health and the marketplace.”

The Kaiser by decision to move away from furniture with flame retardant comes following the January implementation of a California law eliminating requirements that manufacturers add flame retardants to upholstered furniture. A state law from the 1970s required the chemicals in an effort to stop cigarette fires, and the California legal standard quickly became a de facto national standard for manufacturers. But recent studies have linked flame retardant exposure to cancer, reproductive disorders and developmental delays in children.

The change in California law is being disputed, however. Flame retardant-maker Chemtura Corp. filed a suit against the state of California, in an effort to bring back the open-flame testing standard that led to the use of the chemicals in the first place. 

But the federal government is already rethinking its stance on flame retardants and taking a closer look at their possibly toxicity.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft rule last fall, looking for safer alternatives to the flame retardant chemical hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) in polystyrene building insulation due to its “persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic characteristics,” the agency said.

HBCD was one of five flame retardants commonly used in the plastics industry that EPA planned to scrutinize starting in 2013, under a “full risk assessment” plan that usually takes a year or more.


Comments

Kaiser Permanente banning PU flame retardant from furniture buys

By Gayle S. Putrich
Staff Reporter

Published: June 5, 2014 11:13 am ET
Updated: June 5, 2014 11:21 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Ferro sells another piece of its plastics business

December 19, 2014 3:33 pm ET

Ferro Corp. has sold its North American polymer additives business to a private equity firm for $154 million in cash.    More

Image

Judge limits scope of jury verdict against JM Eagle

December 19, 2014 2:30 pm ET

A federal judge in Los Angeles said Dec. 18 that last year's jury verdict issued against J-M Manufacturing Co. — now JM Eagle — for...    More

Image

Antimicrobial polymers firm TiFiber launching pilot production in Ark.

December 19, 2014 10:58 am ET

TiFiber Inc., which makes synthetic compounds to control dangerous microorganisms, will locate a pilot production facility and its future company...    More

Image

Patel named LyondellBasell CEO

December 19, 2014 9:56 am ET

Bhavesh V. “Bob” Patel has been named CEO of Houston-based polyolefins producer LyondellBasell Industries NV, effective Jan. 12.    More

Image

Momentive to get a new name in January

December 19, 2014 9:45 am ET

Momentive Specialty Chemicals Inc. will change its name to Hexion Inc., effective Jan. 15.    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events