In 2003 California passed a state-wide ban on flame retardant chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. PBDEs are dangerous chemicals that accumulate in breast milk and harm child development. They have been found across the globe in both humans and animals, and accumulation levels are rising. The ban covered two forms of PBDEs, octa and penta. Implementation of California’s legislation was initially set for 2006, but intense lobbying by the chemical industry changed the year to 2008. While nations should clearly take the lead on this issue, states may be able to act more quickly than the federal government.
In 2004, manufacturers of the penta and octa variety of PBDE’s voluntarily stopped production of them.
Americansare exposed to PBDEs on a daily basis. The chemicals are used in plastics and foams and added to products phones, furniture and electronics to make them flame retardant. Roughly 50,000 metric tons of PBDEs are produced annually world-wide, with 40% of their use in North America. The chemicals are extremely potent thyroid disruptors and may lead to the development of ADHD and low sperm count.
Opponentsthe ban argued that there is not enough conclusive scientific evidence to warrant a ban, that it will increase the risk of children being exposed to fire, and that it could hurt industry by forcing producers to create one product for sale in California and another for sale everywhere else.
According to Environment California, since California’s ban of two types of PBDEs in 2003, several states have taken action against these chemicals, including Maine, Hawaii, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland and New York. The European Union passed a ban in 2002.
In 2007, it was reported that the state of Washington became the first governmental entity in the world to ban the deca form of PBDE. See more on Washington’s PBDE ban.
- Full Text of the California Ban on PBDEs (AB 302) – signed into law, August 9, 2003
- Environmental Working Group (EWG)
- Environment California – has a section on Toxic Flame Retardants Bans
- Environmental California has reports, Body Of Evidence: New Science In The Debate Over Toxic Flame Retardants And Our Health – issued February 2004 and The Right Start: The Need to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals from Baby Products – issued October 2005
- The Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s has a section with background on PBDE’s