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By Aubry Stone,
President of the California Black Chamber of Commerce

Right now, the California legislature is considering legislation that would dramatically weaken our current fire safety standards. Senate Bill 772 proposes to eliminate critical fire safety standards from children’s products. Children are the one of the most vulnerable populations to fire and removing children from the umbrella of California’s strict fire safety standards is dangerous and unwise.

Our current standard requires an open-flame test and applies to most furniture sold in our state. SB 772 proposes to remove children’s products from this standard, leaving the most vulnerable at the most risk.

The statistics speak for themselves:

According to a recent UC Davis study, some 2 million fires occur each year in the United States alone.  These fires result in about 5,000 deaths, 54,000 hospitalizations and 1.4 million injuries.

Of these U.S. fires, children under the age of 10 cause about 100,000 fires, 300 to 400 child deaths, and 11% of all injuries in reported fires each year. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of all fatal victims of fires are children 5 years old and younger, and half of all fatal home fires started by children playing involve initial ignition of household items like bedding, mattresses, or furniture.

In addition, the disproportionate effect of this bill to the minority community cannot be overstated.  Low income and minority communities already bear a disproportionate share of fire-related deaths and injuries, in part because they lack the financial resources to invest in fire safety. SB 772 would make a bad situation worse by placing adequately flame-retarded furniture and bedding products further out of reach of these consumers. Too often, it is low-income, minority communities that bear the brunt of ill-conceived and unsafe legislation.

In a state where the threat of fire is a constant, any legislation to remove life-saving fire standards must be seriously and thoroughly examined. While it is important to be vigilant about public health and the environment, we must never be reckless concerning something as vital as fire safety for our children. 

Aubry Stone is president of the California Black Chamber of Commerce.

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