Toxic Flame Retardant Chemical Banned in Plastic Shipping Pallets First-in-Nation Maine Law Requires Safer Alternatives to DecaBDE

Feb. 11, 2010 – Press Release from Maine’s Environmental Health Strategy Center

Augusta, Maine – Late today, the Natural Resources Committee of the Maine Legislature voted unanimously to end the rapidly growing use of the toxic flame retardant chemical known as DecaBDE (or Deca) in plastic pallets used to ship food products and other goods to retail outlets everywhere. Under the legislation sponsored by Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree, Deca in pallets must be phased out as soon as practicable, and no later than January 1, 2013, in favor of safer alternatives. The Maine law is significantly stronger than a voluntary national agreement by Deca manufacturers to phase down production of the toxic flame retardant chemical. It would also ensure that Deca is not replaced with other toxic brominated or chlorinated flame retardants.

“Maine will set the pace nationally for replacing toxic flame retardants with truly safer alternatives,” said Michael Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “We applaud the pallet company iGPS for its commitment to achieve a rapid phase out of this toxic flame retardant chemical.”

The Maine legislation reflects a negotiated agreement between the Speaker and iGPS, the company that pioneered the use of lightweight, high tech plastic pallets that have rapidly gained market share against traditional wood pallets, and environmental public health advocates, including Environmental Health Strategy Center, Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.

The Maine law will set the terms for the company’s replacement of Deca nationwide. Under the Maine bill:
• The company will fund an independent alternatives assessment study at a cost of up to $250,000, to be managed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP);

• If the DEP determines that safer alternatives are likely to exist based on the study results, then the use of decaBDE in pallets must be ended early – within 12 months and no later than January 1, 2012;

• The final phase out deadline may be extended only if more time is needed by the company to complete fire safety or performance testing or modify the manufacturing process, but the use of Deca in new pallets must end by January 1, 2013; and

• The replacements for DecaBDE must be safer alternatives – the Maine law bans the use of other brominated or chlorinated flame retardants or other persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals as substitutes for Deca.

The Maine bill will require further votes before becoming law, but with unanimous support in Committee and the support of the plastic pallet company affected and Maine Governor John Baldacci, final passage of the legislation in the next few weeks is virtually assured.

The legislation, LD 1568, An Act to Clarify Maine’s Phase-Out of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), builds on laws previously passed in Maine in 2004 to ban the Penta and Octa PBDE flame retardants and in 2007 to ban Deca in televisions, computers, mattresses and textiles. Several other states have begun to phase out PBDEs in products including Washington, Vermont, Oregon and California. Maine Speaker Pingree’s mother, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has introduced HR 4394, the Deca Elimination and Control Act, to phase out deca in all uses nationwide. In December 2009, three manufacturers of Deca announced a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to end production of Deca for most uses before January 1, 2014. The national voluntary agreement, however, does not restrict specific product uses, would not affect the use of Deca in products imported into the United States, is not enforceable and does not ensure that safer alternatives will replace Deca.

Decabrominated diphenyl ether (DecaBDE) is a high volume, general purpose flame retardant chemicals that’s been added to plastics and synthetic fibers to slow the spread of flames in the event of a fire. Deca is a PBT – persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. It is long-lived in the environment, except when exposed to sunlight which breaks it down into more toxic byproducts. Deca and its toxic byproducts build up to higher levels in the food web, including human breast milk, and the environment. The PBDEs including Deca have been shown to damage the growing brain of newborn animals causing hyperactivity, learning disabilities and impulsive behavior. These chemicals also wreak havoc with thyroid hormones, which are essential to normal brain development and metabolism. Deca and other PBDEs threaten children’s health.

Comments

  1. If this issue is important to you, please take several minutes to join SafePhaseOut.org, a website dedicated solely to the replacement of deca-BDE with environmentally-friendly fire safety alternatives. I just supported the site and had a letter written to my legislator within the week.

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