Illinois Public Interest Research Group  [Printer-friendly version]
March 3, 2006


Agency Directed to Require Use of Safer Alternatives where Available
and Affordable

Today, Governor Rod Blagojevich directed Illinois EPA to research the
availability of safer alternatives to a chemical flame retardant known
as "DecaBDE," which is widely used in household products such as
television sets and sofas. In addition, Governor Blagojevich directed
the agency to initiate regulatory proceedings to require the use of
safer alternative flame retardants where they are available and

The directives, contained in a letter to the agency director, came in
response to a newly-released Illinois EPA study, which concluded that
DecaBDE is building up in our bodies, homes and environment, and is in
widespread use despite considerable uncertainty about its safety.

"This report has given us an opportunity to take action and provide
Illinois consumers with products that do not harm our health," said
State Representative Elaine Nekritz, the author of legislation passed
last year which initiated IEPA's research. "I'm heartened that the
Governor is committing to protect Illinoisans' health."

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are added to consumer products
like computers, televisions, curtains, furniture, and carpet, as flame
retardants. PBDEs leach out of these products and into our
environment, where they are accumulating in our bodies, food, homes,
office, water and land.

"The problem is that we are exposed to these chemicals daily and tests
have shown them to cause thyroid dysfunction, neurodevelopment delays,
and birth defects in animals," said Nekritz.

Last year, Illinois joined six other states in passing legislation
banning products containing two kinds of PBDEs known as PentaBDE and
OctaBDE, and now these two chemicals are off the market. However, a
third kind of PBDE known as Deca is still in widespread use. In fact,
an estimated 54 million pounds of DecaBDE are sold every year in the
U.S. and it is the most prevalent of the PBDEs in house dust.

"We shouldn't be used as human guinea pigs. The safety of chemicals
should be studied and established before they are put into widespread
use in our homes and offices," said Max Muller, Environmental Advocate
for Illinois Public Interest Research Group, which has spearheaded a
campaign to phase out PBDEs. "Wednesday's report shows that in the
case of DecaBDE, we are being exposed to constant barrage of a
chemical that hasn't been proven safe."

Last year's legislation required the Illinois EPA to study the latest
scientific research on DecaBDE. That report was completed and
transmitted to the legislature and Governor Blagojevich Wednesday.

"There is a growing consensus that the continued use of DecaBDE will
result in the build up of toxins in our homes and environment. We
thank the Governor for his appropriate response to IEPA's findings,"
said Muller.

Major findings of Wednesday's IEPA report:

1. DecaBDE is building up in our environment, and in our bodies.

" It is found in human blood samples and breast milk;

" It is present in sewage sludge, which is applied to
agricultural fields and cam contaminate food;

" It was found in infant soy formula;

" It is found in the sediments of our rivers and lakes,
including Lake Michigan;

" It is found in birds, including the peregrine falcon, and
transfers to their eggs.

2. We are exposed to DecaBDE everywhere.

" DecaBDE is in our meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk;

" It is in the dust in our homes and offices;

" Infants are exposed in breast milk as well as soy formula.

3. DecaBDE poses health concerns, particularly for developing
fetuses and young children. While more studies are needed, existing
animal and limited human studies suggest that exposure to DecaBDE may
pose health risks including:

" Thyroid effects -- decreases in thyroid hormone levels, which
can severely impact development of the fetal nervous system;

" Liver effects -- enlarged livers and precancerous liver cells;

" Reproductive effects -- low dose exposure may impair the
development and functioning of the reproductive system.

" Neurological effects -- exposure in the womb has resulted in
neurodevelopment delays, hyperactivity and learning disabilities.

4. DecaBDE may break down into even more harmful chemicals that
are already banned. IEPA is awaiting further studies on this, but
notes evidence that once DecaBDE is in our environment, either
biological processes or sunlight can break it down into smaller, more
toxic PBDEs or into hydroxyl structures that can disrupt normal
hormone function.

5. There are effective alternatives to most of DecaBDEs major
uses in textiles and fabrics.

" Phosphorous based flame retardants pose less health risk and
are just as effective in preventing the spread of fire;

" There are alternative plastics, fabrics and resins that are
less flammable than those currently employed.

Wednesday's IEPA's report on DecaBDE is available at:

Today's letter from Governor Blagojevich to IEPA is available at::