Bromine Industry Tactics To Promote Sales and Avoid Regulation

It’s a logical question – if the bromated flame retardants have been linked to so many health impacts, why are they still being used in products like electronics, furniture, and baby products?

Investigative Report Finds Dishonest Tactics used by the chemical companies

The answer is that the Bromine industry has used a variety of tactics to convince regulators and manufacturers that their product is safe and necessary to protect us from fire dangers. In fact, a series of investigative reports from the Chicago Tribune, called Playing with Fire, documented  “a decades-long campaign of deception” by the chemical companies to promote sales of their products, including:

Launching a phoney consumer watchdog groupCitizens for Fire Safety – that claims to be “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.”  In fact, it’s a trade association of the 3 largest flame retardant manufacturers in the world, Chemtura Corp, ICL Industrial Products, and Albemarle Corp, who use the front group to lobby against regulations, and to whip up fears of fire among consumers and regulators. It’s run by a former advisor to Big Tobacco.

Sponsoring a burn doctor who provided false testimony at hearings. Dr. David Heimbach, a surgery professor at the University of Washington, and former president of the American Burn Association, has testified at legislative hearings on flame retardant regulation.  He would use images and gruesome stories of babies burned in candle fires  that he claimed could have been prevented by use of flame retardants in the pillows, cribs, etc. But he has now admitted that his testimony was not always factual.  (The doctor, who has retired from his position at the University, was recently admonished by the University.)

Lying about the effectiveness of flame retardants. Tests by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and by Underwriters Laboratory have shown that the flame retardants don’t actually impede the progress of fire in furniture, despite the flame retardant manufacturers claims.

“The flame retardant manufacturers perpetrated “a decades-long campaign of deception that has loaded the furniture and electronics in American homes with pounds of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.”

Chicago Tribune, May 6, 2012



“These powerful industries distorted science in ways that overstated the benefits of the chemicals, created a phony consumer watchdog group that stoked the public’s fear of fire and helped organize and steer an association of top fire officials that spent more than a decade campaigning for their cause.”

Chicago Tribune, May 6, 2012

American Chemistry Council caught lying about funding of fire-safety front group.

A top chemical industry consultant who ran the Citizens for Fire Safety, the bromine industry’s now discredited front group, has come forward to say that the American Chemistry Council (ACC) lied about having nothing to do with lobbying against state bills that would curb the use of flame retardants, according to reporting from the Center for Public Integrity in May 2015.

The ACC, the lobbying arm of the enormous chemical industry, has repeatedly denied any connection to Citizens for Fire Safety. But Grant David Gillham says that the ACC actually helped create Citizens for Fire Safety, hired him to run it,  and frequently coordinated with his organization.