Environment Picture

Michigan House votes to phase out dangerous fire retardant deca-BDE

Environmental, public health coalition pins hopes on Senate concurrence
A dangerous fire retardant would be phased out in favor of less toxic alternatives in Michigan under legislation passed overwhelmingly in the State House of Representatives in January.

The phase out of deca-BDE was supported by the state’s leading medical, health and environmental organizations as well as fire fighters’ groups. Its passage, by a 94-6 vote, was secured by a coalition that included the Michigan Environmental Council and was led by the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor.

The State Senate had yet to take up the bill at press time, but coalition organizers were optimistic about its chances.

“We need to move away from the use of this toxic chemical that ends up in our children, our environment and in all of us,” said William Weil, MD, pediatrician and professor emeritus of Pediatrics & Human Development at Michigan State University. “I strongly urge swift passage in the Senate of this legislation to protect public health.”

Deca-BDE is a persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic chemical, which like PCB, has been found throughout the Great Lakes ecosystem. Recent research from Grand Valley State University found PBDEs in all fish of significant size caught in Michigan. Deca-BDE is considered a possible human carcinogen and was recently linked to neurodevelopmental problems in children. In laboratory animals, deca and other polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been shown to cause learning, memory, reproductive and thyroid problems as well as cancer.

The legislation, HB 4699, would stop in-state sales of TVs, computers, mattresses, and residential upholstered furniture containing the toxic flame retardant by 2011. All uses of deca-BDE other than in transportation and military would be banned by 2013, while transportation and military uses would be disallowed by 2014.

“Thanks to the strong leadership of Representatives (Deb) Kennedy and (Rebekah) Warren, we are one step closer to phasing out this toxic flame retardant,” stated Mike Shriberg, PhD, policy director for the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health and Ecology Center. “The Great Lakes State needs to stand up for the health of the Lakes and mitigate yet another chemical disaster in this ecosystem. We urge the Michigan Senate to quickly take action on this important bill.”

More information about the toxic impacts of deca-BDE and about HB 4699, as well as the full listing of organizations in the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health, can be found at www.mnceh.org.
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