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Chicago Tribune series on flame retardants sparks widespread reaction

The Tribune series claims American babies are born into the highest recorded levels of flame retardants in among infants around the world. (Flickr/Nathan LeClair)

A series of reports by the Chicago Tribune on the dangers of chemical flame retardants has ignited a firestorm of reaction in the weeks since it first appeared.

The reach has extended all the way to Capitol Hill where, this week, three Republicans joined 23 other senators, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), in pushing the EPA to enact tougher restrictions on the chemicals.

The reaction follows the Tribune's investigation, “Playing with Fire”, which detailed scientific studies that call into question the efficacy of the chemicals, their harmful health and environmental impacts, and an aggressive industry campaign to push the continued use of flame retardants, despite such concerns.  

The public campaign includes the group Citizens for Fire Safety, which bills 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."  

The Tribune, however, characterized the organization as a front group for the three largest manufacturers of flame retardant products.

Citizens for Fire Safety has fired back with a series of posts on its website, including a series of reports by the California-based Latino Times, which criticizes the Tribune's reporting on the subject.

We talk with Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune about the series and the reaction to it on the 103rd episode of Afternoon Shift.

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