From: Warren Cornwall, The Seattle Times
Published January 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Washington State Officials Urges Ban on Group of Fire-Retardant Chemicals

Jan. 6--A family of fire-retardant chemicals should be banned amid growing concerns that it is toxic, particularly to fetuses and infants, according to Washington state officials.

The recommendation by the state Department of Ecology (DOE) would put Washington among a growing number of states seeking to ban polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. That includes a version of the chemical frequently used in electronics, textiles and airplanes, known as deca-BDE.

Environmentalists welcomed news of the proposed ban but said they would press the Legislature to move more quickly to outlaw deca-BDE. The new recommendations call for a 12-month study of how to ban that version of the chemical and whether to allow its continued use if there is no good replacement.

"We're every excited about the plan. I think the plan pretty clearly shows that deca is on the way out," said Mo McBroom, staff attorney for the environmental group WashPIRG.

A business-community representative also welcomed the recommended ban, but said the additional study was needed.

"The department, by allowing this additional time, is being responsible," said Grant Nelson, governmental-affairs director for the Association of Washington Business.

Gov. Gary Locke in early 2004 ordered the Ecology Department to come up with a plan to regulate PBDEs, as concern grew about their presence and toxicity.

PBDEs have been found in food, women's breast milk and house dust. There are concerns that it interferes with neurological development in fetuses and children and impairs the thyroid gland. It can linger in the environment for years and concentrates in fat.

The production and use of two versions of the chemical are being phased out, said Rick Manugian of DOE. The recommendation calls for the Legislature to ban them by mid-2006.

But the deca-BDE is used in the plastic casings for computers, in Boeing's airplane production and in carpeting, he said. A Boeing official could not be reached for comment. Deca-BDE is thought to be the least-toxic version, but some research suggests that it breaks down into the more-toxic versions, according to DOE.

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