Thursday, December 24, 2009

Companies Agree to Stop Using DecaBDE Flame Retardant in Consumer Products

The US EPA has reached an agreement with three manufacturers of the brominated flame retardant, decabromodiphenylether (DBDE or DecaBDE) to voluntarily phase out its production within three years. Chemtura, Albemarle and ICL Industrial Products will stop making DecaBDE, which is used in consumer electronics (e.g., computers), furniture, textiles, and other items as a flame retardant.

Two other related chemicals, PentaBDE and OctaBDE, were banned previously but DecaBDE was assumed to be too big to be toxic. Subsequent research has proved this assumption to be questionable, with DecaBDE found to be a potential carcinogen as well as toxic to the nervous system. It also is persistent in the environment and has been found in the blood of humans, including in the recently released biomonitoring report by the Center for Disease Control.

The three companies agreed to end production, importation and use of the chemical in all consumer products by December 2012. That would be followed by a full ban a year later. Several US states, other countries and the EU have already banned all three forms of the flame retardant. The one limitation of the agreement is that a fourth manufacturer, based in Japan, did not sign the agreement and thus as of this writing plans to continue to export products containing DecaBDE to the US.

This last fact is another reason why the current chemical control law in the US, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is deemed insufficient by virtually all stakeholders and is expected to be "modernized" in 2010.

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