Cancer-free Camping: Sen. Irwin Introduces Legislation to Keep Harmful Chemicals Off Tents

LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 9, 2021) — Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced Senate Bill 632 to eliminate an outdated fire prevention code that is forcing retailers to sell tents with harmful chemical coatings. The proposed legislation would amend Michigan’s Fire Prevention Code by eliminating the flame-resistant requirement for recreational camping tents sold in our state.

In 1975, when tents were made from waxed or oiled cotton, Michigan adopted the Canvas Products Association International (CPAI) flammability standard, or CPAI-84. This standard has not been updated since then, leaving Michigan one of seven states still mandating this requirement, with the others being California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.

“Thankfully, tents are made of completely different materials than they were almost 50 years ago, making these requirements counterproductive,” Sen. Irwin said. “Technology has advanced, but our laws haven’t, so now they are causing more harm than good.”

“The proposed bill modernizes standards and ensures an equivalent level of safety, while eliminating unnecessary exposures of recreational campers to hazardous flame retardants in these products,” stated Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center. “The bill simply clarifies the original intent of the statute to focus on safety for larger gatherings in larger occupancy tents.”

A Duke University study, which took samples from 11 recreational tents, found that 10 of the tents contained flame-retardant additives that are known carcinogens. This study also took samples from the people using the tents and found they had flame-retardant levels 29 times higher after handling a tent than before, suggesting that the chemicals were leaching from the tents.

“We know that the requirements don’t make tents more flame-resistant, and we know that the chemicals used to make them ‘fire resistant’ are harmful to people and wildlife,” Sen. Irwin said. “If you look at recreational tents sold here in Michigan, many of them come with a warning label stating that it contains materials that can cause cancer. We need to update our laws.”


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