Wash. Senate OKs scaled-back flame retardant ban

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OLYMPIA— The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would ban two carcinogenic flame retardants in car seats, strollers and other products made for young children.

The measure to ban TCEP and chlorinated Tris — also known as TDCPP — was scaled back from the version advanced by the Democrat-controlled House in March. The ban would take effect in 2015.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate version doesn’t include banning the two retardants from sofas and other upholstered household products. It also removes a provision barring the replacement of banned flame retardants with other likely toxic chemicals — a phenomenon advocates refer to as “the toxic treadmill.”

“We’re disappointed,” said Ivy Sager Rosenthal, campaign director for the Washington Toxics Coalition. “Just banning these two flame retardants in children’s products isn’t enough.”

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill would make Washington the first state to ban chlorinated Tris, a chemical that rose in use after the state banned a class of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, from children’s products in 2009.

New York state banned TCEP from children’s products two years ago.

After passing the Senate by a vote of 30-18, the measure heads back to the House, which can either adopt the upper chamber’s version or work toward a compromise.

Proponents of the House version of the bill point out that Graco Inc., a manufacturer of car seats and other children’s products, recently stopped using chlorinated Tris, replacing it with TBBPA, a derivative of Bisphenol A that the state Department of Ecology lists as a chemical of high concern to children.

Last year, a Chicago Tribune investigation found that an expert witness for the flame-retardant industry, Dr. David Heimbach, a burn expert from Seattle, had fabricated testimony before state lawmakers across the country. In that testimony, Heimbach told of treating infants suffering severe burns because of children’s products not containing flame-retardant chemicals.

In the wake of the Tribune report, the companies that manufacture flame-retardant chemicals closed their public outreach arm, the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, and shifted their lobbying efforts to the American Chemistry Council.

The American Chemistry Council said it opposes any measure that would restrict the use of flame retardants at a state level.

“We believe it is the role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine if chemicals are safe for use,” Bryan Goodman, a council spokesman, said in a written statement. “State chemical bans are not necessary and often in conflict with other jurisdictions.”

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