FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Health and Environmental Advocates Urge Legislature to Adopt Ban on Toxic Flame Retardants
Rep. Ross Hunter and Sen. Debbie Regala have introduced legislation to ban toxic flame retardants, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (or PBDEs) found to be building up in breast milk and the environment.
Rep. Ross Hunter and Sen. Debbie Regala have introduced legislation to ban toxic flame retardants, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (or PBDEs) found to be building up in breast milk and the environment. Proposed legislation (HB 1488 and SB 5515) will ban all forms of PBDEs in Washington state by 2006, provide for Ecology to study other actions to address PBDE contamination, and require state agencies to purchase PBDE-free products including computers, electronics, and carpets.
"The handwriting is on the wall. Toxic flame retardants that wind up in our breast milk and in our bodies and that threaten our children's health must be phased out," said Laurie Valeriano, policy director for the Washington Toxics Coalition. "Now is the time for the legislature to take action and ban these toxic flame retardants."
In a study released last year by Northwest Environment Watch, high levels of PBDEs were found in the breast milk of all 40 Northwest women who participated in the study.
PBDEs, chemical cousins of PCBs, can impair memory and learning and disturb thyroid hormone levels in lab animals. Levels found in the breast milk of women in Washington state were 20 to 40 times higher than levels found in Europe and Japan.
"This is a huge opportunity for the Legislature to protect children as well as the environment from these toxic flame retardants," said Barry Lawson, MD, President of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "We urge the Legislature to act on this opportunity by passing legislation to ban all forms of PBDEs."
Under an agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and a chemical manufacturer, two of the three main PBDEs in use, penta and octa-BDE, are being taken off the market beginning in 2005. The chemical industry is fighting to retain the use of the third most heavily used mixture, deca-BDE (deca), used primarily in plastic television casings.
"Deca has been found in breast milk, in wildlife, in the environment, and in household dust. It can also break down into other forms of PBDEs that have been banned in Europe and California, " said Mo McBroom, with the Washington Public Interest Research Group. "Cost effective alternatives to deca exist and are being used by companies including Sony, NEC, and Panasonic."
In January, the Department of Ecology released a plan recommending a ban on all three forms of PBDEs, including deca.
"We didn't heed the warning signs from PCBs until it was too late. The only rational response to PBDE contamination is to ban deca," added McBroom.
Major public health, religious, environmental, and community organizations support banning PBDEs. These groups include: American Academy of Pediatrics -- WA State Chapter, WA Academy of Family Physicians, WA Physicians for Social Responsibility, WA State Public Health Association, WA State Medical Association, Washington Toxics Coalition, Washington Public Interest Research Group, People for Puget Sound, Washington Conservation Voters, American Lung Association, Washington State Nurses Association, Breast Cancer Fund, Healthy Building Network, Washington Environmental Council, Institute for Childrens' Environmental Health, Northwest Environment Watch, Washington Association of Churches, Institute for Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders, Lutheran Public Policy Office, Northwest Environment Watch, and many others.
Washington Toxics Coalition
206-632-1545 ext. 114