Federal government announces plan to protect firefighters from harmful chemicals

Fire crews battle a blaze at Sleepy Hollow Storage near Parksville, late in the evening on May 21, 2021. || Photo by Tyler Hay
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The Canadian government has a plan to ban flame retardant chemicals that can harm firefighters. 

The toxic substances can be found in products such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and electronic devices, according to a media release from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“Chemical flame retardants in furniture create a blacker, thicker and more toxic smoke and offer no benefit to firefighters, or to families trying to escape a burning home,” said Mike Carter, district vice-president, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). 

“The IAFF is encouraged that the Government of Canada is taking action to ban harmful flame retardants, researching the impacts of burning flame retardants on firefighters and studying how to reduce our exposure.”

The government said it has heard concerns from firefighters and stakeholders and is taking action to protect first responders. Patty Hajdu, minister of health and Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of environment and climate change, announced a comprehensive action plan today (Aug. 11).

The plan includes banning harmful chemical flame retardants and supporting development and use of safe flame retardants, including less harmful alternatives in household products.

“Fires today burn hotter and faster than ever before, aided by the chemical soup of toxins contained within our homes and businesses,” said Gord Ditchburn, president of the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters’ Association. 

“Chemical flame retardants designed to keep us safe can actually contribute negatively once the product combusts. These steps will serve to enhance the use of safe flame retardants and to work with firefighters to reduce the dangers we face every day.”

Federal action to address flame retardants is part of the Chemicals Management Plan, a Government of Canada initiative aimed at reducing the risks posed by chemicals to Canadians and their environment.

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