We at SAFER states are thrilled with two major developments on the phase out of toxic flame retardants. As a result of action in the SAFER states over the last several years and often mentioned here, the EPA has negotiated an agreement with three large manufacturers who have agreed to phase out decaBDE (deca) in the United States.
Additionally, Representative Chellie Pingree (D - ME) introduced a bill into Congress to ban deca to ensure the phase out takes place and that safe alternatives are used for flame retardants.
Deca is a flame retardant that is used in insulation, electronics and home furnishings and there is concern about its health effects in wildlife and humans.
It is part of a family of chemicals called PBDEs that are found in many household items, including clothing, bedding and fabrics for children as well as carpeting and car upholstery.
Matt Prindiville, Toxics Project Director of the National Resouces Council of Maine outlines the health problems:
“The scientific evidence is clear. Deca threatens childhood brain development, and can cause or contribute to learning disabilities that last into adulthood. The absorption of deca and its breakdown products, is a very real threat to women and children, because these chemicals are passed to infants through breast milk and to children through contact with household dust.”
According to a press release from Chemtura Corporation, one of the companies that has agreed to the phase-out, it will initially focus on removing deca from electronics and home furnishings, followed by transportation and industrial uses.
“This is a victory for people, the environment, and Lake Michigan” said Max Muller, Program Director at Environment Illinois. “People trust that products manufactured and sold in the United States are safe, but chemicals like decaBDE indicate otherwise. Scientific studies demonstrate indicate decaBDE's neurological and reproductive health effects may already be impacting human health and wildlife. Alternatives are available. We applaud its phase-out.”
Several states had moved against flame retardants to protect their residents before any move was made on the federal level. Vermont, Washington, Oregon, and Maine have all passed bans and related legislation is pending in New York, North Carolina, Connecticut, Michigan, Alaska, Maryland and California.
A Washington Toxics press release today talks about the elimination of deca in Washington: "Washington state should be especially proud today because its leadership provided momentum for the phase out. Under the leadership of Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), Sen. Debbie Regala (D-27), Governor Gregoire, and the Department of Ecology, the state adopted one of the first bans in the nation on deca in 2007. The ban took effect on deca in mattresses in 2008 and will be in effect in 2011 for televisions, computers and residential upholstered furniture. Manufactures will still have to comply with Washington's law for these products despite the voluntary agreement."
While the states are all pleased with a step by these three manufacturers, Prindiville cautions that the fight against deca is not over, and it is critical that governments -- state and federal -- still move to protect their citizens from deca.
“... even as they’re announcing a protracted phase-out, they are pouring tens of millions of pounds of this chemical into plastic shipping pallets used to transport food. This is appalling. Fortunately, Speaker Pingree is also sponsoring a bill to expand Maine’s ban on deca beyond consumer products so that it covers shipping pallets, and Representative Pingree’s bill will cover this at the federal level.”