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EPA Study Underlines Need for Ban on Dangerous Fire Retardants

Posted Nov. 13, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Nick Berning, 202-222-0748
Russell Long, 415-302-4824

EPA Study Underlines Need for California Legislation to Ban Dangerous Fire Retardants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Friends of the Earth restated its commitment to a proposed ban on a group of harmful fire retardants yesterday as scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency released a study confirming the risks they pose.

The report, published in the August 15 edition of Environmental Science and Technology, is the latest to focus on the adverse health impacts of these chemicals. When brominated fire retardants burn, they convert to dioxins, among the most potent carcinogens known. As a result, firefighters suffer from four types of cancer--especially non-Hodgkin's lymphoma--at extremely high rates. Some studies have also linked the existence of brominated fire retardants in breast milk to reproductive, neurological and developmental disorders including ADHD and hyperactivity in children.

"It is perverse to fill our furniture and bedding with chemicals that can damage our health and even kill us in the name of fire safety, especially when safer alternatives are already available and being used by many progressive furniture and mattress makers," said Russell Long, Vice-President of Friends of the Earth.

Current California laws end up encouraging brominated or chlorinated fire retardants but in June the state Assembly passed a bill that would ban their use by January 1, 2010. That bill, AB 706, is co-sponsored by Friends of the Earth and MOMS (Making our Milk Safe), and authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-SF). It has cleared the State Senate policy committees and is expected to soon be sent to Governor Schwarzenegger for signing. Three California agencies have indicated their opposition to the bill, primarily because it preempts the Governor's Green Chemistry Initiative due in July 2008. That initiative is reminiscent of President Bush's Healthy Forests and Clear Skies Initiatives, which were widely believed to water down existing programs to preserve forests and protect air quality.

"This bill is the first of its kind in the U.S. to regulate entire classes of toxic chemicals in a precaustionary way, which is essential if we're going to find a strategy to regulate the 40,000 chemicals used daily across the nation," Long said. "If the Governor won't support this bill, it will be apparent that the Green Chemistry Initiative is a classic case of the Emperor wearing no clothes."

For more information on the bill click here.

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