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DecaBDE Phaseout

March 15, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 11

The sudden announcement that Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL Industrial Products are phasing out production and sale of the brominated flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) for most uses within three years was the inevitable result of a series of cascading events (C&EN Online, Latest News, Dec. 18, 2009). In recent years, scientific evidence of decaBDE's bioaccumulation and threats to health triggered market and regulatory responses. Many product manufacturers have already switched to safer, less controversial means to achieve fire-safety standards.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen states advanced policies to limit decaBDE, thus boosting demand for nonhalogenated alternatives. In 2007, Maine and Washington state banned use of decaBDE in certain electronics and furniture. Last year, Vermont followed suit, and Oregon enacted a sweeping ban with very few exemptions. Soon afterward, Chemtura drafted an agreement with the International Association of Firefighters that provided the basis for the recent agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency. On Dec. 16, 2009, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced H.R. 4394, a federal bill for a phased ban on decaBDE.

Although the bill is not perfect—it exempts recycled content and does not require that substitutes are demonstrated to be safer—eliminating decaBDE is an important step in the right direction. This is yet another example of the urgent need to reform U.S. law on chemicals so that companies and consumers can have confidence in the safety of the products that they rely on.

Kathy Curtis
Policy Director, Clean New York
Rotterdam, N.Y.

The article on the phaseout of deca-BDE says that "hundreds of science-based and peer-reviewed studies have shown decaBDE to be safe." No number of hundreds of studies—science-based, peer-reviewed, or whatever—will ever show decaBDE to be safe. They may fail to find it harmful, but that is different from finding it safe.

Charles F. Deck
Trenton, Mich.



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