Halt Flammable Floor Products

Tragic floor finishing fires in Somerville, Hull, Dennis, Taunton, Milton, Needham and Marblehead over just three years have left some people without homes and some without loved ones. "We were devastated that Tinh lost his life...We want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else." 


Marcy Goldstein-Gelb
, MassCOSH
W: (617) 825-7233 ext. 15
C: (617) 642-1878

Hiep Chu, Viet AID
W: (617) 822-3717 ext.12

When Daniel Simon decided to have the wood floors of his home in Hull refinished in July 2005, he assumed it was an easy and safe procedure. It wasn't. The chemicals used to seal the floor combusted, killing contractor Tinh Huynh and sending Simon's house up in flames.

On January 16th, Simon testified before the state's Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security in support of a bill that would make it unlawful to use highly flammable floor finishing chemicals like the one that caused the tragedy inside his Hull home.

"We were devastated that Tinh lost his life," said Simon. "We want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else."

"An act to establish a maximum flammability for floor finishing products" (House Bill 2407) would prohibit the use and sale of highly flammable wood floor finishing products that can ignite at temperatures less than 100 degrees fahrenheit. A task force made up of industry, labor and community members -- formed after the deaths of floor finishers in Hull and Somerville – unanimously called for the measure. Since the task force began meeting, numerous fires across the Commonwealth have been attributed to flammable floor finishing chemicals.

"The state must take immediate steps to end not only the urgent tragedies from fires, but also the long-term health problems that come from working with these highly toxic chemicals," said Hiep Chu, executive director of Viet AID and a task force member.

As a major chemical supplier to Vietnamese-owned floor finishing businesses, New England Hardwood Floor Supply owner Michael Le said that the deaths were a "wake up call" for owners, employees and consumers. "I suddenly realized that my customers – and their customers – were being exposed to safety hazards. Unfortunately, it took three lives for us to really get the message, but then again, it's never too late."

According to Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the workplace safety organization MassCOSH and a task force coordinator, "These flammable floor finishing products ignite at such low temperatures that simply employing safety measures, such as extinguishing pilot lights or not smoking, will not prevent all sparks that can ignite the vapors of these liquids."

Representative Martin Walsh (Dorchester) who filed the bill that he hoped to see the bill turn into law during this legislative session. "It's urgent that we take immediate action to protect floor finishing workers and homeowners from fires and other hazards in this industry," said Rep. Walsh. "I look forward to working with the Task Force and the legislature in passing a piece of legislation that will make the flooring industry safe for Massachusetts while keeping small businesses in business."

Senator Patricia Jehlen (Somerville) quickly became an advocate for floor finishing safety after the fire that took place in her legislative district. "This legislation is necessary to protect against the tragedies that have occurred in my district and across the state," said Senator Jehlen. "Rather than placing both workers and the public in danger while forcing firefighters to deal with the consequences of dangerous and unnecessary chemicals, we should act quickly to prevent such fires from occurring in the first place by prohibiting dangerous and unnecessary flammable products from being used."


House Bill 2047: Prohibiting the Use and Sale of Highly Flammable Floor Finishing Products