EPA Phases Out Prevalent Toxic Chemical decaBDE
family with toys
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of a voluntary phase out of the toxic flame retardant deca (BDE) by the only two U.S. deca manufacturers and the largest U.S. importer is a huge victory for children’s health and the environment. Under the agreement, the manufacturers will stop the production, importation, and sales of deca for most uses in the United States over a three-year period. The agreement can be found at: www.epa.gov/oppt/pbde/.
New York State can be especially proud today because its leadership helped provide momentum for the phase out. Under the leadership of Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, the NYS Assembly has passed near-unanimous deca bans in recent years, with broad bipartisan support. “This agreement is an example of how local grassroots efforts and state government can cause change in national policy”, said Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert K. Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst).
Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), who introduced a similar measure in the NYS Senate, states “I am gratified the EPA has reached agreement with the ‘bromine industry’ to phase out completely the brominated flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (deca). When I introduced S. 177, I sought to amend our state environmental conservation law to restrict the use of deca in certain products. I was attempting to protect the environment and public health by prohibiting the manufacture, processing and distribution of a dangerous chemical which may cause neurological and developmental damage. This agreement, complete and nationwide, is a triumph. A chemical found to persist in the environment and in our homes, that accumulates in dust, in food, and inside our bodies and has been found in blood and breast milk, has been eliminated.”
Kathy Curtis, Policy Director for Clean New York, added, “The long-awaited phaseout of deca has been in the crosshairs of a coalition of states, scientists, and public health professionals for a decade. It is an enormous victory for environmental health and justice advocates, but the agreement exempts recycled content, thereby ensuring that decaBDE continues to enter our homes, and our bodies, for years if not decades to come. State and federal government should take further action to ensure that deca and other toxic chemicals be eliminated from the products we use every day.”
Deca has been linked to variety of health impacts, including developmental and reproductive problems and compromised immune systems. Deca is one of three commercial mixtures in the family of PBDEs. Penta and octa, the two other commercial mixtures, were voluntarily phased out by the chemical industry in 2004, and subsequently banned in New York State. PBDEs have been found as a contaminant in breast milk, people, orca whales, peregrine falcon eggs, and other wildlife.
“As more and more chemicals have proliferated in everyday consumer products, the incidence of learning disabilities, autism and other developmental disabilities have climbed at an alarming rate,” said Stephen Boese, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of NYS. “It’s heartening to see how state leadership on this issue served as the springboard for federal action. We thank the dedicated policymakers and fellow advocates whose hard work and perseverance brought us this success,” Boese added.
“This agreement between the State and Industry to the voluntary phase-out of the toxic flame retardant deca is exactly the type of collaboration we need to see between government and industry to protect the health and welfare of children,” said Christine Brouwer Executive Director of Mira’s Movement, a pediatric cancer advocacy organization. “With the causes of so many childhood diseases still unknown, to rid children’s products of known toxins is the logical place to start.”
“Our primary goal is to protect the health and safety of firefighters in New York State. This agreement is a long overdue victory for human health, the environment and firefighters’ health and safety. Our hope is that a safer, non-halogenated substitute will be produced as a fire retardant by the chemical industry.” said Dennis Sweeney, Health & Safety Coordinator for the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association.
The problems with deca illustrate the critical need for reforming the nation’s outdated toxic chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). States have taken the lead to fill the gaps in the federal law that have allowed the indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals in consumer products that are in our homes, schools, and offices. It’s time for Congress to modernize this antiquated system and adopt a commonsense law that protects the health of people and the environment, while restoring the public’s confidence in the safety of consumer products.
“The EPA’s decision to protect Americans from this toxic chemical brings us one step closer to a toxic-free, healthier future for our kids. Now we need to move beyond addressing one chemical at a time and protect people from chronic diseases like asthma and cancer by overhauling the regulatory system that allowed this toxic chemical to be legal in the first place,” said Andy Igrejas, Campaign Director for the 100+ member coalition Safer Chemicals,