[Pharmwaste] Furniture store Herman Miller among those leading way
in phasing out fire retardant chemical deca-BDE in Michigan
Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Wed Dec 9 15:48:50 EST 2009
Herman Miller among those leading way in phasing out chemical
By HYONHEE SHIN
Capital News Service <http://hollandsentinel.com>
Posted Dec 07, 2009 @ 07:00 AM
Lansing, MI -
Have you ever worried that flame-retardant chemicals in computers or
furniture might be hazardous to your health?
A Brownstown lawmaker does worry and wants Michigan to phase out the use
of one such chemical, deca-BDE. Deca-BDE is used in electronics and home
furnishings to make them difficult to burn.
Soil scientists say deca-BDE and two related fire retardants are
considered toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative. They build up in fish
and water and can harm the human body and breast milk, as well as water
In 2004, the Legislature banned manufacturing and distributing materials
containing more than 0.1 percent of two other flame retardants. However,
deca-BDE is still widely used and could degrade into toxic forms, under
certain circumstances, studies show.
A bill by Democratic Rep. Deb Kennedy aims to phase out deca-BDE in
televisions, computers, mattresses and residential furniture upholstery
by Jan. 1, 2012.
"My motivation is to protect public health and keep lakes as clean as
possible," she said. "Deca-BDE is found in every Great Lakes fish we eat
because of bioaccumulation."
The Michigan Chemistry Council has opposed banning deca-BDE. It said
existing alternatives to deca-BDE work well on textiles but not as well
But Mike Shriberg, policy director of the Ecology Center and the
Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health in Ann Arbor, said
there's no need to use deca-BDE.
"Exposure to deca-BDE from these products, such as mattresses and
furniture, leaches out through the products directly or via dust into
people's bodies and other pathways," he said.
Shriberg said the level of accumulation in the Great Lakes is a
particular concern because deca-BDE is similar to PCBs, polychlorinated
biphenyls, which are chemicals banned in the 1970s because of their high
The Michigan Network, a coalition of organizations including the
Michigan Nurses Association, Learning Disabilities Association, Michigan
chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said toxic levels of
deca-BDE and the two related flame retardants are at all-time high.
A 2008 study by the Michigan Interdepartmental Toxics Steering Group
shows chemical levels in human tissues in North America have
significantly increased over time and are much higher than levels in
Europe or Japan.
Professor Richard Rediske, a water resources expert at Grand Valley
State University's Annis Water Resources Institute, said deca-BDE should
"It's accumulating in humans by breathing dust," said Rediske. "The dust
falls on food, feed and plant materials which in turn are consumed by
animals and move up the food chain. Also in laboratory experiments,
deca-BDE mimics thyroid hormones and may produce developmental-related
A co-sponsor of Kennedy's bill, Rep. Jimmy Womack, D-Detroit,
participated this year in a biomonitoring project by Physicians for
Social Responsibility. The organization's testing found a high level of
deca-BDE, mercury and other potentially toxic substances in his blood.
Womack said, "Those chemicals can bring harm to you and your family. As
a consequence of that study, I was able to be more empathetic to the
need for us to do due diligence when it comes to protection of the
Kennedy said firefighters face the most serious risk.
David Peterson, president of the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs and
the fire chief in Plainfield Township, said his organization supports
"When these compounds are exposed to fire, they burn and release dense
fumes and a highly corrosive gas, hydrogen bromide, which expose
firefighters to additional chemical hazards," he said.
The International Association of Fire Fighters also supports the ban.
"Many studies involving firefighters exposed to toxic gases during
active firefighting, overhaul and long term exposure from these
chemicals penetrating gear, have found that firefighters have a much
greater risk of contracting cancer, heart and lung disease and other
debilitating diseases," the organization said in a statement.
Fire retardant alternatives to deca-BDE are available, experts say.
And Rediske, at Grand Valley State, said other action also is needed.
"We need to focus more on technology to limit their use, such as
electronics that run cooler so we can get lower energy consumption as a
secondary benefit," he said.
Kennedy said a number of leading manufacturers no longer use deca-BDE,
including the two largest furniture companies in the state - Herman
Miller Inc. and Steelcase Inc. - Michigan-based La-Z-Boy Inc., 14 top
U.S. bedding makers and electronic manufacturers like Apple Inc. and
Some states, such as Washington and Maine, already ban deca-BDE. Similar
legislation is pending in Illinois and Minnesota.
"European countries like Sweden stopped using it 30 years ago," said
Kennedy. "Michigan will be one of the leaders."
Co-sponsors include Democratic Reps. Daniel Scripps of Leland; Lesia
Liss of Warren; Harold Haugh of Roseville; Sarah Roberts of St. Clair
Shores; Marie Donigan of Royal Oak; Vincent Gregory of Southfield; Fred
Miller of Mount Clemens; Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield; Kimberly Meltzer
of Clinton Township; and Mark Meadows of East Lansing.
The bill is pending in the House Great Lakes and Environment Committee.
Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email: Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov (NEW!)
WEB site address: www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail: P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218
Location: 629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
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