Department of Ecology News Release - June 25, 2014

Consumer products tested for toxic flame retardants
Some manufacturers replacing PBDEs with unregulated chemicals

OLYMPIA – Tests on 125 consumer and children’s products show some manufacturers have replaced flame retardants banned in many products sold in Washington, with unregulated — but also potentially toxic — chemicals.

“The study confirmed that some manufacturers have made what are known as ‘regrettable substitutions,’ ” said Carol Kraege, who leads the Department of Ecology’s work to reduce toxics threats. “That’s why we are trying to find ways to help manufacturers find safer alternatives for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), rather than relying solely on bans.”

Ecology also tracks the use of 66 chemicals of high concern to children. This includes manufacturers reporting some flame retardants present in children’s products under the Children’s Safe Product Act (CSPA). Eight samples from children’s products contained flame retardants above the reporting limit.

Ecology notified manufacturers of potential violations and is working to ensure compliance. The presence of a chemical in a product doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe.

Products tested included seat cushions, mattresses, upholstered furniture for children, electronics, clothing, and baby carriers.

Toxic chemicals, especially long-lasting ones that build up over time, are found everywhere, and flame retardants are no exception. PBDEs were found in fish and whales in the Puget Sound in a study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program.

 Research shows PBDEs can impact reproductive health, the immune system, and development in mammals. Evidence is also mounting that shows flame-retarding chemicals do not effectively slow fires and that fire fighters can have negative health effects from inhaling fumes while battling blazes.

A report containing test results, as well as a database with manufacturers’ reports on toxics used in children’s products are available on Ecology’s website. People can also join the children’s safe products email list for periodic updates.

Ecology’s work on flame retardants and safer alternatives will continue. The Washington State Legislature requested a report by December 2014 recommending whether other flame retardants should be banned in children’s products and furniture. Manufacturers and others interested in alternatives assessments for finding safer chemicals are invited to register for a workshop on July 9.

People interested in Ecology’s work on toxics can follow the ECOconnect blog series Tackling Toxics. The series provides in-depth coverage of product testing and other actions the agency is taking to reduce toxic threats in Washington.

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Contact:

Erika Holmes, communications, 360-407-6149, @ecologyWA