Yesterday, the Maine Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee came to consensus on a bold move to ensure Maine families and wildlife are protected from preventable diseases caused by the toxic chemical, Deca-BDE. The bill, which bans the use of the toxic chemical ‘Deca’ in plastic shipping pallets, faces additional floor votes before heading to the governor for his signature, but a unanimous committee vote and support by the industry and conservation and public health advocates makes its passage virtually assured.
The scientific evidence is clear. Deca threatens childhood brain development, and can cause or contribute to learning disabilities that last into adulthood. The absorption of Deca and its breakdown products, is a very real threat to women and children, because these chemicals are passed to infants through breast milk and to children through contact with household dust.
And our children aren’t the only ones at risk. Because Deca is long-lived in the environment and builds up in the food chain, wildlife – especially predators at the top of the food chain – are can also be harmed.
A 2007 study showed that endangered Maine Peregrine falcons had the highest levels of Deca ever recorded in wildlife. The Peregrine falcon was threatened in the mid ’70s with extinction, due to reproductive failure caused by the now banned pesticide, DDT. Today, the threat of DDT has been replaced with Deca, which accumulates in the peregrines’ food chain and can cause the birds harm.
The good news is that we can have fire safety, healthy kids, and a clean environment. We don’t need to use Deca. There are safer alternatives widely available that meet the same fire safety standards without harming our kids or Maine wildlife. I think that the Maine Legislature has seized on both an opportunity and an obligation to enact legislation because we know that there’s a risk out there and a clear way to eliminate it.
It’s clear that we need strong regulatory action on toxic chemicals to drive the market towards safer alternatives, and to ensure that Deca is truly phased out.
On behalf of our children and the wildlife of Maine, NRCM commends Speaker Hannah Pingree and the members of the Natural Resources Committee for their leadership to protect our health from exposure to toxic chemicals like Deca.
– Matt Prindiville, NRCM Toxics Project Director
Yesterday, the Natural Resources Committee of the Maine Legislature voted unanimously to end the rapidly growing use of the toxic flame retardant chemical known as DecaBDE (or Deca) in plastic pallets used to ship food products and other goods to retail outlets everywhere. Under the legislation sponsored by Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree, Deca in pallets must be phased out as soon as practicable, and no later than January 1, 2013, in favor of safer alternatives. The Maine law is significantly stronger than a voluntary national agreement by Deca manufacturers to phase down production of the toxic flame retardant chemical. It would also ensure that Deca is not replaced with other toxic brominated or chlorinated flame retardants.
The Maine law will set the terms for the company’s replacement of Deca nationwide. Under the Maine bill:
- The company will fund an independent alternatives assessment study at a cost of up to $250,000, to be managed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP);
- If the DEP determines that safer alternatives are likely to exist based on the study results, then the use of DecaBDE in pallets must be ended early – within 12 months and no later than January 1, 2012;
- The final phase out deadline may be extended only if more time is needed by the company to complete fire safety or performance testing or modify the manufacturing process, but the use of Deca in new pallets must end by January 1, 2013; and
- The replacements for DecaBDE must be safer alternatives – the Maine law bans the use of other brominated or chlorinated flame retardants or other persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals as substitutes for Deca.