SCARBOROUGH — The story of our business starts in the attic, where our 3-year-old son loved to play on the dozens of couch cushions stored there. Why so many cushions? Well, my wife and I sell furniture, and we had been testing cushion shapes and sizes for a new line of smaller sofa designs.

But then a customer called and asked if we could sell him furniture without flame retardants. It was then that we learned that dangerous brominated flame retardants were in every single one of the cushions in our foam-filled upholstery products, even though these chemicals had been proven ineffective at preventing the spread of fire.

I was quite outraged to learn there was no labeling requirement, yet the foam we were using had as much as 11 percent carcinogenic flame retardant chemicals by weight. The thought that I had let my son play on cushions containing over 30 pounds of poison was horrifying. And what about our customers? Certainly they had a right to know that toxic chemicals were being used in their mattresses, couches and chairs – furniture their family used every day.

We decided that day to sell only non-toxic furniture that wouldn’t put the health of our customers at risk. And we began talking to our representatives in Augusta and Washington.

Maine has been a leader in getting toxic chemicals out of everyday products, and last year the Legislature overwhelmingly supported a ban on the use of chemical flame retardants in upholstered furniture. In Congress, the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act was passed almost unanimously, thanks in no small part to the leadership of Sen. Susan Collins.

Maine families and businesses need these strong, common-sense protections in state and federal law. This includes being able to trust that appointed leaders are looking out for our health and safety, not the interests of the chemical industry or the manufacturers of dangerous products. Unfortunately, recent federal nominees have left us extremely concerned.

Congress is considering the nomination of Dana Baiocco for commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This nomination comes despite her background as a corporate attorney specializing in defending the manufacturers of defective or dangerous products that have killed or injured people. This includes helping her clients avoid any Consumer Product Safety Commission restrictions.

Ms. Baiocco’s past clients have sold toys with lead, ATVs prone to deadly rollovers and cars that don’t meet emission standards. She has also defended R.J. Reynolds, one of the tobacco companies that lobbied for including toxic flame retardants in furniture in order to ease the pressure to make fire-safe cigarettes.

Last fall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to start a process that will prohibit use of the class of flame retardants known as organohalogens, including the brominated variety, in furniture, mattresses, kids’ products and electronics casings. Ms. Baiocco’s history of siding with industry and her refusal to acknowledge the need to recuse herself from matters involving her clients should give Maine parents and businesses serious concerns about her commitment to consumer protection, especially as the commission’s organohalogen rulemaking gets underway.

Would we put the tobacco industry in charge of our children’s health? Of course not. So it’s only common sense that current and future nominees to all high-level health and safety jobs meet some basic criteria that Maine’s senators can insist upon.

First, and at a minimum, nominees should be committed to the agency’s mission. Second, they should not have a conflict of interest with the industry they would be overseeing. Third, they should not have a published record that denies, downplays or defends a product or chemical already proven to be dangerous. And most importantly, they should understand what’s at risk, and make sure our children are never inadvertent guinea pigs while the research catches up with the reality of illness and harm.

These four simple criteria must hold true for all current and future nominees. We need to stand up, speak up, and let our representatives know we expect our nation’s health and safety leaders to actually put health and safety first.

We need to call Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King and ask them to publicly oppose the Consumer Product Safety Commission nomination of Dana Baiocco as soon as possible, and to share their concerns with their colleagues.

Let’s give all business owners the confidence to sell products that won’t make our customers sick. Let’s give parents good information about the products they are bringing into their homes. And let’s give our children every chance to learn, grow, jump on couch cushions and have a healthy, productive future.