Firefighters and flame retardant activism

New Solut. 2015 Feb;24(4):511-34. doi: 10.2190/NS.24.4.f.


In the past decade, exposure to flame retardant chemicals has become a pressing health concern and widely discussed topic of public safety for firefighters in the United States. Working through local, state, and national unions and independent health and advocacy organizations, firefighters have made important contributions to efforts to restrict the use of certain flame retardants. Firefighters are key members in advocacy coalitions dedicated to developing new environmental health regulations and reforming flammability standards to reflect the best available fire science. Their involvement has been motivated by substantiated health concerns and critiques of deceptive lobbying practices by the chemical industry. Drawing on observations and interviews with firefighters, fire safety experts, and other involved stakeholders, this article describes why firefighters are increasingly concerned about their exposure to flame retardant chemicals in consumer products, and analyzes their involvement in state and national environmental health coalitions.

Keywords: environmental health; firefighters; flame retardant chemicals; labor-environment coalition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Advocacy
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Firefighters*
  • Fires / prevention & control*
  • Flame Retardants*
  • Health Education / organization & administration
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Public Policy
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • United States


  • Flame Retardants