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.