Report On Safer Flame Retardants – Newell Rubbermaid (2012)

Outcome: Successfully Withdrawn.

Over the past decade, there has been growing scientific, regulatory, and public concern about the exposures of pregnant women, infants, and children to various chemicals of concern. These include, for example, halogenated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride, phthalates, cadmium, and Bisphenol A.
A study of children’s car seats in August 2011 described hazardous flame retardants and chemical additives in over half of the car seats tested. Child car seats produced by Newell Rubbermaid subsidiary Graco, the Snugride 35 in Edgemont Red/Black and SnugRide 30 in Asprey, were among the most toxic seats tested.
A second study, published in Environmental Science and Technology examined 101 samples of polyurethane foam samples from a variety of baby products and found 80% contained either a chlorinated or brominated flame retardant.[1] The products, whose purchase dates ranged from 2000 to 2010, included car seats, changing table pads, portable mattresses, and 13 other categories of products.
In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) addresses a handful of chemicals of concern in toys. Individual states are also beginning to address children’s products. For example, Maine and Washington adopted legislation in 2008 that, among other provisions, requires companies to submit data to the state on toxic chemicals in children’s products.[2]
These and other laws in the US and especially in the European Union are motivated in part by growing recognition that exposures of children to toxic chemicals are especially concerning because many of their bodily systems and organs are undergoing rapid growth and development and they can be exposed to toxic chemicals through frequent hand to mouth activity. For example, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, who directs the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH, has commented, “with regard to flame retardants, I am concerned about not only cancer, but the developing brain and reproductive and neurological effects as well.”
RESOLVED: The shareholders urge the Board of Directors to issue a report to shareholders, at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary and confidential information, within six months, evaluating the company’s policy options for phasing-in safer alternatives to halogenated flame retardants.
Supporting Statement:
Shareholders believe the report should include a characterization of the product categories for which these chemicals of concern occur in company products, and potential policies and practices to deploy safer alternatives to these chemicals.
We believe that the increasing attention being paid by policy makers, investors, and consumers to the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in products necessitates adopting safer alternatives as they become available. Safer alternatives policies have been adopted by many consumer product manufacturers such as SC Johnson and Nike. Companies have adopted such practices to build public trust, protect brand reputation, and anticipate prospective regulation.
[2] These and other regulatory developments are summarized in Monica Becker, Sally Edwards, Rachel I. Massey. Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children’s Products: Limitations of Current Responses and Recommendations for Government and Industry. Environmental Science & Technology, 2010; 44 (21): 7986 DOI: 10.1021/es1009407

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