Mothers and Fire Fighters Demand Safer Alternative to “Deca” Fire Retardant
Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine
AUGUSTA – Dozens of Maine citizens gathered in the State House today to support legislation to replace the toxic fire retardant Deca with safer alternatives which provide the same level of fire safety. Nurses, physicians, mothers and children’s advocates joined forces with firefighters, state agencies and scientists in support of LD 1658, An Act to Protect Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals Released into the Home, sponsored by Representative Hannah Pingree (D-North Haven). The only opposition to the bill comes from the chemical industry that wants to keep making Deca despite growing worldwide concern about the threat it poses to the health of children and wildlife.
Scientists have shown that Deca delays brain development and causes learning and behavior problems in lab animals, according to research conducted by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and University of Southern Maine. Other studies show that toddlers have higher levels of Deca in their blood than older children and adults, from eating and breathing contaminated household dust.
“As a mother of two young children it is important to me that the products I bring into my home are safe for my family,” said Amy Graham who came to Augusta today from her home in Farmington. “Deca is building up in the bodies of my family and all Mainers and I think it’s time we get it out of commonly used products.”
Eighty percent of Deca is used as flame retardant in the plastic cases of televisions. It’s also used commercially in furniture, drapes and electrical wires. Widespread use of this chemical has resulted in widespread exposure. Deca, and the chemicals it breaks down into, have been found in several animal species, as well as human breast milk and blood. Recent research shows that the highest levels of Deca ever detected in the eggs of peregrine falcons collected in Maine and New Hampshire.
In 2004, the Maine Legislature banned two similar toxic flame retardants, “Penta” and “Octa.” The 2004 law also adopted a goal to phase out Deca by January 1, 2008 providing that safer alternatives are nationally available.
Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection has confirmed that safe alternatives to deca are widely available that ensure fire safety with lower risk to human health and wildlife. The proposed phase-out of Deca is supported by the State Fire Marshal, Maine Fire Protection Services Commission, Maine Fire Chiefs Association and Professional Fire Fighters of Maine.
“There are effective alternatives to the use of this toxin that are safer for firefighters too,” confirmed professional firefighter Bobby Reynolds. “There is no need for Deca to be used for fire safety any longer.”
The Natural Resources Committee of the Maine Legislature is holding a public hearing at 1:00 pm today on LD 1658, An Act to Protect Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals Released into the Home. This bill would ban use of the toxic flame retardant “Deca” in the plastic cases of televisions by 2010, and immediately prohibit new uses in mattresses and home furniture.
“We can have both fire safety and healthy kids,” said Representative Hannah Pingree, the lead sponsor of LD 1658. “When we banned the use of the fire retardants Penta and Octa in 2004 the Legislature decided we needed more information about safe alternatives before banning Deca too. Now that we have that information I urge my fellow policy makers to finish the job and support a Deca phase out.”
Maine’s public hearing comes on the heels of passage of a similar bill in Washington State. On Tuesday the Washington State Senate passed a Deca phase out bill by a margin of 41-8 following a House vote of 71-24. The Washington bill is expected to be signed by the Governor. Several other states are also considering a ban. Deca is also banned in electronics throughout Europe and for all uses in Sweden.
“Maine lawmakers should follow through on their commitment to phase out Deca to protect the health of Maine kids” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “Ignore the chemical industry’s self-serving hype and listen to the Maine people who have said loud and clear: we don’t need Deca and we don’t want it in our homes and bodies.”
Registered nurse Bettie Kettell of Durham agreed and said “I recently found out that I have a very high level of flame retardants in my body. These chemicals are in me without my consent. I was not aware of the extent that these chemicals were used in products in my home or hospital and that I could absorb them in the dust I breathe.”
Matt Prindiville, toxics project leader for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said he’s seen overwhelming support from Mainers for the deca phaseout. “There has been broad support for phasing out toxic deca from mothers, firefighters, medical workers, you name it. With safer alternatives available, it should be an easy decision for the Maine Legislature to support protecting Maine families over giving in to the international chemical corporations that profit from selling this toxic chemical.”