‘Cancer-Free Camping’ Bill to Keep Toxic Chemical Coatings Off Tents Advances in Michigan Senate

New legislation from Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) aims to make camping safer in Michigan—namely by keeping toxic coatings off tents.

By Kyle Kaminski

May 25, 2023

New legislation from Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) aims to update the state’s fire code to make tent camping safer for Michiganders. 

MICHIGAN—Camping could soon become much safer in the Mitten.

New legislation approved by the Senate this week will make it legal for stores to sell camping tents without chemical coatings—reeling back a fire code rule that mandates all tents sold in the state first be treated with toxic flame retardants that have been associated with causing cancer. 

Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) labeled the current requirements as “counterproductive.”

“We aren’t camping in tents made of heavy, paraffin-soaked canvas anymore. Technology has advanced, but our laws haven’t, so now they are causing more harm than good,” he said.

In 1975, when tents were usually made from waxed or oiled cotton, Michigan adopted a standard that requires tents be treated with flame-retardant chemicals that are now known to be toxic. And while tent materials have changed over the years, Michigan hasn’t updated its rules—meaning that tents are still unnecessarily being coated with carcinogenic chemicals.

Research shows that flame retardants slow the spread of fires in laboratory settings, but more recent studies have shown they offer little practical benefit, producing far more toxic smoke than untreated items and posing a risk of cancer and other illnesses to those who inhale the fumes.

Michigan is one of only seven states still mandating flame retardants be used in tents.

“You should be able to go camping in Pure Michigan without being exposed to persistent, bioaccumulative poisons,” Irwin said in a statement. “We need to update our laws.”

The bill still needs to pass the state House and garner a signature from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before it can become law. It was referred to a House committee for further review on Tuesday.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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