Government of Canada announces action plan to protect firefighters from harmful chemicals

Fighting fires is essential and dangerous work. In addition to the physical hazards faced by firefighters, some household products become more dangerous when they burn. In particular, firefighters can be exposed to toxic substances, such as certain harmful flame retardants in upholstered furniture, mattresses, and electronic devices, when responding to a fire. The Government of Canada has heard concerns from firefighters and stakeholders, and is taking action to protect these first responders in their lifesaving work.

Today, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced a comprehensive action plan to protect firefighters from harmful chemicals released during household fires.

The plan includes actions to:

  • Ban harmful chemical flame retardants;
  • Support the development and use of safe flame retardants, including less harmful alternatives to chemical flame retardants in household products;
  • Conduct research and monitoring to assess levels of exposure;
  • Identify practices for firefighters to reduce harm, such as improvements to personal protective equipment; and
  • Share information and raise awareness.

Quick facts

  • Flame retardants are made up of various types of chemicals that are used in or applied to products. They are used to keep items from catching on fire and to limit the spread of fire. They can be found in a variety of products, including upholstered furniture, mattresses, electronics, textiles, and foam and rubber products.
  • To ensure that harmful chemicals are identified, the Government of Canada has already assessed more than 150 flame retardants, taken action to restrict or phase out twelve harmful flame-retardant substances, and proposed to take action on an additional six flame retardants.
  • The Chemicals Management Plan brings together various federal chemicals programs under a single strategy aimed at assessing environmental and human health risks posed by chemical substances and organisms, and managing toxic substances according to the risks they present to human health and the environment.

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