Issue Date: October 29, 2012
In The States: Lawmakers, Agencies Move To Restrict Some Flame-Retardant Chemicals
Their moves are a response to public concern about widespread exposure to these compounds and potential negative health effects observed in scientific studies.
Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have enacted phaseouts of decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE). These actions come as the two U.S. manufacturers and one importer of commercial mixtures of decaBDE are eliminating availability of this product for all but critical uses by the end of this year; they intend to cease making it by the end of 2013. In addition, 11 states have banned penta- and octaBDE, two chemicals that their U.S. manufacturer stopped producing in 2004. These states are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.
Now, states are setting their sights on other flame retardants, says Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. For instance, a 2011 New York law bans the sale of children’s products, including car seats and crib mattresses, that contain tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP) as of Dec. 1, 2013, Doll says. Safer States is a network of environmental health coalitions and other organizations that tracks chemical control legislation in states and provides technical assistance to states that are considering new policies on chemicals.
Since 1992, TCEP has been on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer. Any product sold in California that contains a chemical listed under Proposition 65 must be labeled as posing a hazard. Last year, California added another flame retardant, tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP), to that list. Products including furniture with TDCPP have had to carry a Proposition 65 hazard warning label as of Oct. 28. TDCPP, sometimes called chlorinated tris, was removed from children’s sleepwear in the late- 1970s after a laboratory study showed it to be mutagenic. A 2000 report by the National Research Council found TDCPP to be carcinogenic to lab rodents, based on published studies.
On another front, Washington state is taking an approach to flame-retardant chemicals that doesn’t involve bans or labels. Instead, flame retardants are included in a wide-ranging effort that requires manufacturers to disclose the presence of any of 66 listed chemicals in children’s products. A 2008 Washington law specifies that the list include substances that can interfere with the normal development of a fetus or child; cause cancer or genetic damage; interfere with the hormone system; cause systemic toxicity; or are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Among the 66 substances on that list are two flame-retardant chemicals: TCEP and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). Another may join their ranks. Earlier this year, the Washington Department of Ecology announced it intends to add TDCPP to the list.
Some states and localities are also taking action through procurement policies, prohibiting use of state funds to purchase products containing certain flame-retardant chemicals, Doll says.
More state action on flame retardants is likely in the future, Doll tells C&EN. The Chicago Tribune’s investigative series earlier this year on flame retardants has sparked state lawmakers’ interest in controlling the use of compounds that, Doll asserts, can cause adverse health effects without providing significant fire-safety benefits.
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