[Pharmwaste] Toxic flame retardant (deca,
or polybrominated diphenyl ether - PBDE) to be phased out
Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Mon Dec 21 11:08:07 EST 2009
Toxic flame retardant to be phased out
In a deal with federal regulators, U.S. manufacturers will end all use
of the chemical known as deca by 2013. It is commonly used in TV sets
and other electronic equipment, among other products.
By Bettina Boxall
December 20, 2009
The U.S. manufacturers of a toxic flame retardant commonly used in
television sets have agreed to phase out production under a deal with
The retardant, known as deca, is one of a class of chemical compounds
that have been found in California residents at the highest levels in
the country, a consequence of widespread exposure linked to the state's
strict flammability standards for furniture.
Deca is a polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), a group of
flame-retardant chemicals used in the manufacture of electronic
equipment, furniture cushions, upholstery textiles, carpet backings,
mattresses, cars, buses, aircraft and construction materials.
A California ban on products containing two other PBDEs, penta and octa,
took effect in 2008. Even though the deca phaseout does not ban the
importation of products with the compound, activists said the move is
"This is the beginning of the end for brominated flame retardants," said
Richard Wiles, senior vice president for policy for the Environmental
Working Group. "It sends a signal."
Steve Owens, an assistant administrator at the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, said in a statement accompanying last week's
announcement that "studies have shown that DecaBDE persists in the
environment, potentially causes cancer and may impact brain function.
"DecaBDE also can degrade to more toxic chemicals that are frequently
found in the environment and are hazardous to wildlife."
Deca is used worldwide, primarily in plastic for the backs of television
First detected in the environment in 1979, PBDE levels have been
climbing. The compounds have been found in human tissue, breast milk,
fish, birds, marine mammals, polar bears, house dust, indoor air,
supermarket foods and San Francisco Bay Area sewage.
In a study released last year, researchers found that Californians had
twice as much of the flame-retardant chemical in their blood and as much
as 10 times more of it in their homes than elsewhere in the country.
Levels in California children were higher than those measured in their
The state's flammability standards for furniture are the toughest in the
Exactly how the retardants get into the environment is uncertain, but
pathways probably include releases from product manufacturing, along
with wear and tear on furniture and electronics.
John Gustavsen, a spokesman for Chemtura Corp., said his company agreed
to the phaseout because it provided a three-year window to develop
"There have been increasing regulatory restrictions on deca globally and
many would result in a ban," he said.
Under the EPA agreement, Chemtura and Albemarle Corp., deca's two U.S.
producers, and ICL Industrial Products Inc., the largest U.S. importer,
will end all use of the chemical by late 2013.
In a statement, Albemarle described deca as safe and "one of the most
efficacious flame retardants in the world," but said the company had
developed a "recyclable and an eco-friendly alternative."
PBDEs are just one group of flame-retardant chemicals used in the United
States. Other types also have been found in the environment.
And Wiles, of the Environmental Working Group, said new PBDE substitutes
are potentially worrisome too.
bettina.boxall at latimes.com
Copyright (c) 2009, The Los Angeles Times
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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