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Agencies Gearing Up On Flame-Retardant Risks

by Britt E. Erickson
August 24, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 33

Credit: Shutterstock
An upholstered chair.
Credit: Shutterstock

Federal agencies are trying to get a better grasp on the potential risks associated with various classes of flame-retardant chemicals. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is seeking comments on a petition to ban certain products that contain organohalogen flame retardants. The petition, filed in March by a coalition of medical and consumer groups, asks CPSC to adopt a rule under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act that would declare four types of products “banned hazardous substances” if they contain organohalogen flame retardants. The products include durable infant and toddler items, upholstered furniture used in residences, mattresses and mattress pads, and casings surrounding electronic products. The petitioners claim that this class of flame retardants is associated with reproductive, genotoxic, immunotoxic, neurotoxic, and carcinogenic effects in animal studies and reduced IQ, reduced fertility, birth defects, and hormonal changes in humans. EPA, meanwhile, is planning to scrutinize three types of organohalogen flame-retardant chemicals—chlorinated phosphate esters, cyclic aliphatic bromides, and tetra­bromo­bisphenol A—for possible regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act. EPA says that for a fourth class of flame-retardant chemicals, brominated phthalates, it needs toxicity, exposure, and commercial mixtures data.


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