Oooh, an early Christmas present! The U.S. EPA has announced that it’s saying goodbye to the last brominated flame retardant in the US market. The three manufacturers of deca-BDE have agreed to sunset the compound by 2013.
This is good news. Deca-BDE is in the family of flame retardants known for accumulating in human breast milk. The whole family is fat-soluble, bioaccumulative, and toxic in laboratory studies—and the compounds found at far greater levels in the US than elsewhere in the developed world. (See here for more on PBDEs in the Northwest.)
Deca, however, was considered both less toxic and less likely to get into human bodies than its chemical cousins, the penta- and octa-BDEs. Still, scientists argued that deca-BDE could break down into lower-brominated congeners, and thus posed a more significant long-term health threat than the bromine industry claimed. Washington passed a pathbreaking partial deca-BDE ban in 2007. It would have been a full ban, except that the industry argued that there was simply no good alternative to deca.
Now, less than three years later, and the chemical industry agrees with the activists: we can get by just fine with other, less troublesome compounds. Good riddance, I say.
I’m concerned that the replacement will turn out to be just as bad. These brominated chemicals are all bad. Just moving one of the atoms around on the molecule doesn’t help much. Deca breaks down into Penta and Octa, the new one will too. Nevertheless, it’s a win for the good guys.Better fire protection can be achieved by clever design than brute force use of nasty chemicals. Make cigarettes put themselves out and you eliminate a bazillion fires, but you reduce consumption.Rep. Ross Hunter
Oh what a present it is. After saving the lives of so many people and protecting our properties against the hazards of fires, the EPA has finally found a way to protect our lives by eliminating the use of one of the most studied flame retardants. The EPA chose to ignore all scientific studies that establish that decaBDE does not impose any risk to mankind, while sacrificing our safety. It further chooses to yiels to populistic pressure of intetrest groups, while opening the door to the introduction of less studied and more dubious solutiond to the issue of flame retardancy.
Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, Washington Toxics Coalition
The voluntary phase-out is a huge victory for children’s health and the environment. As one of the groups who backed Washington’s deca ban, we couldn’t be more pleased with the news.Washington state should be especially proud because its 2007 ban helped push the manufacturers toward this phaseout. Major kudos to Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), Sen. Debbie Regala (D-27), Governor Gregoire, and the Department of Ecology, for standing up to the chemical industry and taking action to protect our kids. Thanks also to the many, many groups and concerned citizens who helped demonstrate the broad public support for the chemical’s ban.As great as the voluntary phaseout is, a mandatory ban on deca is still necessary to ensure deca is not used again and, as Rep. Hunter rightly points out above, that the replacement fire retardants are safer for our health and the environment.