by Matt Prindiville, NRCM toxics policy advocate
Good afternoon Senator Martin, Representative Koffman and members of the Natural Resources Committee. My name is Matt Prindiville. I am the Toxics Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. NRCM strongly supports LD 1658, and we thank Representative Pingree for bringing this issue to the attention of the committee and for her continued leadership on children’s health issues.
As you’ve heard today, RDP is the less hazardous and more preferred flame retardant for TV applications. Is it the perfect, benign, ultimate green solution? No, it’s not. However, let’s remember that in the way our society and economy make progress, there are transition stages while we strive for continuous improvement.
Think about hybrid vehicles. Everyone talks about how great they are for the environment. What do they burn? They burn gasoline, a toxic fuel that’s damaging the planet. But hybrids are more preferable to other automobiles because they pollute considerably less. Ultimately, we know we will some day transition away from gasoline completely, but hybrids are the next step at the right time in the progression towards cleaner transportation.
Also, let’s think about lead paint. We banned lead paint in 1978 because there was good evidence that it was harming our kids. When the market started moving away from lead paint in the middle of the last century, did we know as much about the alternatives as we did about lead? No, we didn’t. Lead was the most studied because it was the most hazardous, just like deca is the most studied flame retardant because it poses the most risk to our kids and wildlife. And today, because of product innovation and market and regulatory drivers, the paints we have are a lot safer and more effective than even the alternative paints were 30 years ago.
So in our innovation economy, we make continuous improvements. We move away from what we know is hazardous, and we take transition steps, moving towards safer substitutes, while we constantly strive to make safer and better products.
As my last point, I would like you take note of something. I would like you to take not of who’s not in the room. In 2004, this committee considered a ban on deca, and at that time, nobody from the electronics industry showed up to defend it. Neither did any of the mattress manufacturers. We also didn’t see any furniture manufacturers or any of their trade associations. And I have reason to be confident that you won’t find any of these parties in the room today either.
The reason that they’re not here defending deca is because every one of them knows they can cost-effectively flame retard their products without the use of deca, and without the public health concerns associated with using it, and that’s the bottom line.
The only defenders of the deca are the companies that profit from manufacturing 120 million pounds of it annually. They are the four companies that make up the Bromine Science and Environment Forum. Chemtura, Albemarle, ICL Industrial Products and Tosoh Corp. are here because they are heavily invested in bromine chemistry and make a substantial amount of money from selling deca-BDE, one of their flagship products. The industry will tell you not to phase out deca because they believe there aren’t good substitutes for it. They will go around and around about RDP, even though they themselves also manufacture it. And they will go to great lengths to distort the truth, even saying that televisions will be more flammable as a result of this bill.
In Washington State, they handed out videos to legislators and the news media, depicting two televisions, one treated with deca, smoldering slowly, and the other TV – ostensibly ablaze with fire because it wasn’t treated with deca. What they didn’t tell the public was that the flaming television had no flame retardants in it whatsoever. This is a complete distortion of the issue. As you heard from previous testimony, you cannot buy a non flame-retarded television set in the United States. The marketplace simply won’t allow it. This bill is not about banning flame retardants. It’s about removing a dangerous chemical from the universe of flame retardant technologies used in the marketplace.
Since I was talking about lead earlier, I would like to close with this quote.
That was from Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. in defense of lead in gasoline in1990, over twenty years after federal agencies began the process to phase it out. He was then the CEO of Ethyl Corporation and today he is the former CEO and current Vice-chairman of the board of Albemarle Corp. They were blurring the science then, and they’re blurring it now. I hope the committee will be able to see through any smokescreens they put up today. Thank you for your time. 1. Kenny Bruno, “Poison Petrol: Leaded Gas Exports to the Third World,” Multinational Monitor, Vol. 12, Nos. 7 & 8, July/August 1991.
That was from Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. in defense of lead in gasoline in1990, over twenty years after federal agencies began the process to phase it out. He was then the CEO of Ethyl Corporation and today he is the former CEO and current Vice-chairman of the board of Albemarle Corp. They were blurring the science then, and they’re blurring it now. I hope the committee will be able to see through any smokescreens they put up today.
Thank you for your time.
1. Kenny Bruno, “Poison Petrol: Leaded Gas Exports to the Third World,” Multinational Monitor, Vol. 12, Nos. 7 & 8, July/August 1991.