The state of Massachusetts has announced the ban of certain shades due to alleged toxic chemicals related to flame retardants on fabrics. However, it was a move that took some New England-area integrators—and even some manufacturers—by surprise, with dealers reportedly still able to purchase and install the banned products.
The law itself was signed back on November 17, 2021 by Gov. Charlie Baker signed Massachusetts. General Law Chapter 21A, Section 28, otherwise known as the “Act to Protect Children, Families, and Firefighters from Harmful Flame Retardants” then took effect on January 1, 2022, banning the sale of materials that included more than 1,000 parts per million of any of 11 specific flame-retardant chemicals. If the product was in inventory prior to December 31, 2021, then it was exempt.
For violators, the penalties can add up. For the first violation, a fine is imposed of not more than $100 per product, not to exceed a total of $5,000. For the second violation, a fine of not more than $250 per product, not to exceed a total of $25,000; and for the third or subsequent violation, a fine of not more than $1,000 per product, not to exceed a total of $50,000.
What Chemicals Constitute a Ban Under the New Law?
The term flame retardant refers to a diverse set of chemicals added to various products to decrease ignitability and inhibit the combustion process. According to MassDEP, test data and monitoring studies in humans and the environment have demonstrated that certain flame-retardant chemicals can persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in people and animals, and have been shown to cause adverse developmental effects in animals.
The banned list is:
- Tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP) (Chemical Abstracts Service number
- Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP) (Chemical Abstracts Service number 115–96–8);
- Antimony trioxide (Chemical Abstracts Service number 1309–64–4);
- Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) (Chemical Abstracts Service number 25637–99–4);
- Bis (2-Ethylhexyl)-3,4,5,6- tetrabromophthalate (TBPH) (Chemical Abstracts Service number 26040–51–7);
- 2-EthylhexYl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) (Chemical Abstracts Service number 183658– 27–7);
- Chlorinated paraffins (Chemical Abstracts Service number 85535–84–8);
- Tris (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TCPP) (Chemical Abstracts Service number 13674–84–5);
- PentaBDE (Chemical Abstracts Service number 32534-81-9);
- OctaBDE (Chemical Abstracts Service number 32536-52-0);
- Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) (Chemical Abstracts Service number 79-94-7)
- Any other chemical flame retardants specified by the department pursuant to subsection (c).
It’s worth noting the law specifically calls out window treatments, as well as bedding, carpeting, children’s products, and residential upholstered furniture.
Products that are sold in a set shall be constituted as a single product.
What Is the Likelihood the Shades I Bought Were Affected by the Ban?
The Mass Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) recommends professionals contact their suppliers, distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers to make arrangements to ensure that products they purchased were manufactured after December 31, 2021 and they are in compliance with this law.
CE Pro reached out to multiple manufacturers of shading products for the custom electronics industry, none of which wanted to go on the record regarding this situation. Many of these well-known manufacturers source their fabrics from the same small group of suppliers, which are the entities that would be applying the now-banned flame retardants in question.
The companies tell CE Pro they are complying with the new ban in the state after exhausting their inventories. Several admitted the ban caught several of them by surprise. Some companies now have indicators in their ordering portals that certain shade solutions cannot be sold in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The consensus among several suppliers is that this ban is likely to spread to other states; therefore, it is something for both integrators and interior designers to be on the lookout for. Several integrators in Massachusetts that were contacted by CE Pro said they had only recently become aware of the ban, which apparently was initiated in the state because the manufacturer of the chemicals themselves is based in the Commonwealth.
However, a handful of dealers reported they had purchased and installed motorized shade solutions after the January 1 ban took effect. Presumably, they were installing inventory from suppliers that still have the questionable chemicals.
What Will be the Next Steps Moving Forward?
According to the law, a manufacturer, retailer or any other professional who knowingly violates the law shall be subject to a civil penalty equal to three times the amount of the fine imposed for such violation. A civil penalty for a violation shall be waived if the department determines that a manufacturer, retailer or integrator acted in good faith to be in compliance, pursued compliance with due diligence and promptly corrected any noncompliance after discovery of the violation.
The ban leaves several unanswered questions. What sort of flame retardant is now being used on window treatments sold in Massachusetts, if any? Are shades installed in the state now more flammable? Do integrators have any liability should those fabrics ignite in their clients’ homes?