California lawmakers consider ban on PBDEs

Based on findings by the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, California lawmakers are considering a ban on two forms of chemicals, used as flame retardants in foams and plastics, known as PBDEs — polybrominated diphenyl ethers and octabrominated diphenyl ethers.

California’s EPA secretary, Winston Hickox, cited research that shows the chemicals accumulate in the blood of mothers and their newborn children. According to the study, the chemicals can disrupt the thyroid and children’s brain development. Hickox has been quoted as saying he believes the chemicals should be regulated nationally.

Calls to foam suppliers in the bedding industry reveal that many have already begun a voluntary plan to phase out the use of the flame–retardant chemicals.

California is considering bans that would be similar to those that have been adopted by the European Union. The EU has set a deadline of mid–2004 for manufacturers to discontinue use of those chemicals.

California’s legislature plans to ban PBDEs by 2008.

The EPA’s study revealed that levels of the chemicals have been shown to be higher in North American women than in any other part of the world. The chemicals also have been found in animals such as San Francisco harbor seals, Great Lakes birds and Arctic polar bears.


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