Albemarle Corp., Chemtura Corp. and ICL Industrial Products said in a statement that the companies have severed their relationships with the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, a group they founded, funded and directed. The companies will shift their outside lobbying and advocacy efforts to the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry's chief trade group.
"We will focus on educating policymakers and stakeholders about the contributions of flame retardants to fire safety, and the science that supports flame retardant chemistries as an important tool to protect lives and property by reducing the flammability of the products around us,'' the statement said.
Seth Jacobson, who had been the spokesman for Citizens for Fire Safety, said today that he no longer represents the group. The organization's executive director, Grant Gillham, did not return telephone calls.
The Tribune reported last month that the chemical makers were reconsidering their involvement with Citizens for Fire Safety in response to the newspaper's "Playing With Fire" investigation, which documented the front group's role in a decades-long effort by the tobacco and chemical industries to promote the use of flame retardants.
Those efforts have helped load American homes with toxic chemicals linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility. A typical American baby is born with the highest recorded concentrations of flame retardants among infants in the world.
Citizens for Fire Safety played an active role in states where legislators have proposed banning certain flame retardants. Its tactics included distributing videos featuring ominous music, footage of burning houses and narrators warning that restrictions on the chemicals would endanger children.
The group also sponsored witnesses who testified before state legislators in favor of flame retardants. Among them was a now-retired surgery professor at the University of Washington who told lawmakers stories about burned babies, though the Tribune investigation found that the infants as he described them didn't exist.
Citizens for Fire Safety had billed itself as "a coalition of fire professionals, educators, community activists, burn centers, doctors, fire departments and industry leaders, united to ensure that our country is protected by the highest standards of fire safety." In response to the Tribune series, the group altered its website to clarify that it is a trade association.
Its board of directors was composed of executives from Albemarle, Chemtura and ICL, which contributed about $17 million to the group between 2008 and 2010, most of which was spent on lobbying and political expenses, according to federal tax records.
Lobbying for the three chemical makers now will be handled by the American Chemistry Council, which said in a statement that it "will continue to communicate the science that addresses the effectiveness and safe use of flame retardants."