Letter to Producers: Toxic Hot Seat Lacks Objectivity


I write to close the loop on our discussions and document what appears to be a biased and ethically questionable approach to producing a documentary on the flame retardant industry and California’s flammability test for upholstered furniture (Technical Bulletin 117).

When you first approached me on March 18, you indicated to me via telephone that you were producing a documentary that would look at the history of TB 117 and carefully consider all sides of the debate. However, as I researched your work, I uncovered the website for Shadow Creek Films, which provides a description of the documentary that directly contradicts what you initially told me. Indeed, the website states:

“Chemical flame retardants are everywhere. Our furniture. Our homes. Our bodies. Yet flame retardants don’t seem to stop fires. They do, however, seem to make us sick. So why do we use them? To answer that question, Toxic Hot Seat takes deep into a shadowy nexus of money, politics and power—and a few brave citizens who are willing to stand their ground. Watch Toxic trailer.”

It is now abundantly clear that you and your colleagues have a preconceived view on this issue. When I confronted you with the information I had uncovered, you responded by saying that the documentary’s angle could change. However, given the definitive tone of the Web description, that seems highly unlikely. It is also concerning that you have been working on the piece for quite some time, at least a year, and chose to contact us only during the final stages of production.

Fire safety is an important issue, and we do not want to be a part of any production that uses embellishments based on a pre-set agenda that prevents us from providing viewers with science-based information on the topic. There is a great deal of information that we hope you will include in the film, including the main points that we made in our comments on TB-117-2013 that were submitted to the Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. Additionally, your piece should include the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s comments, indicating the agency is considering a standard that would include both a smolder and open flame test. (I am attaching an Inside Cal EPA article on those comments.) You should also play a clip of NFPA spokesman Ray Bizal’s public comments that a fully comprehensive fire safety regulation should include an open flame test. There is also a great deal of information on the NAFRA website and fire statistics on the NFPA website that can be used in your piece.

We are disappointed that such an important issue is being manipulated to advance an agenda and that our expertise would be marginally used to present the appearance of balance, so we will be unable to take part in your film.

Bryan Goodman
Director, Product/Panel Communications
American Chemistry Council