flame retardant could trigger obesity, anxiety and other problems at
significantly lower levels.
Chemtura, the Philadelphia-based company that makes the flame retardant, says Firemaster 550 is safe. In a statement posted on its website, the company says it introduced the chemical mixture because it offered a "better environmental profile" than penta, a flame retardant it voluntarily withdrew from the market after studies found it builds up in people and triggers health problems.
In addition to a pair of chemicals in Firemaster 550, the EPA will investigate four similar compounds, including two that are listed as confidential.
The EPA also will review three forms of a flame retardant linked to cancer that Tribune testing last year found in three popular brands of baby mattresses.
Manufacturers voluntarily removed one of the chemicals, TDCPP, from children's pajamas in the late 1970s after researchers found it could mutate DNA. California lists the chemical as a known carcinogen.
But manufacturers can legally add it to other products, and a study by Stapleton last year suggested that TDCPP is the flame retardant most commonly added to household furniture cushions.
Another chemical under review by the EPA, hexabromocyclodecane, or HBCD, has been recommended for a worldwide ban by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international treaty organization that targets dangerous compounds.
In a statement, the American Chemistry Council said it is "committed to supporting EPA efforts toward implementing a transparent and science-based chemical assessment process for priority chemicals." Targeting nearly two dozen flame retardants "shows the agency already has a great deal of authority to evaluate and regulate chemicals under current laws," a spokesman said in an emailed response to questions.
But Jones of the EPA said the agency doesn't have enough information to conduct a formal risk assessment of eight of the flame retardants on its list. It plans instead to request and collect data that could lead to a more thorough investigation.
If the agency concludes that any of the flame retardants pose significant risks, Jones said, the best it likely can do is negotiate with manufacturers to phase out the chemicals voluntarily.
The EPA brokered similar deals to stop production of penta, octa and deca -- flame retardants from a family of chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. But scientists increasingly are raising alarms about chemicals introduced as substitutes.
"They are trying to do the best they can under a very flawed law," said Richard Denison, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit group that backs the Lautenberg legislation. "If the EPA fails again to do anything about these hazardous chemicals, it just shows why we need a new law."
(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune
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