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Regulatory Action to Complement Phase-Out of Two Flame Retardant Chemicals

Release Date: 12/01/2004
Contact Information:


Contact: Enesta Jones 202-564-7873 / jones.enesta@epa.gov

(12/01/04) To complement a voluntary phase-out of the manufacture of two common flame retardant chemicals scheduled for the end of this year, EPA is taking action to ensure that no new manufacture or import of two flame retardant chemicals occurs after Jan. 1, 2005, without first being subject to agency review. The two chemicals, Penta and Octa, are part of a chemical group called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, and have been used as flame retardants in commercial products such as furniture foam and structural plastics in small electronic appliances and computers.

This action follows a Nov. 3, 2003, announcement by the Great Lakes Chemical Corp., the only U.S. manufacturer of Penta and Octa, which agreed to voluntarily phase out production of these chemicals by Dec. 31, 2004. This regulatory procedure by EPA, known as a Significant New Use Rule, will ensure that prior to any manufacture or import of these chemicals, EPA will have 90 days to evaluate potential risks, and can prohibit or limit any new use or activity that may pose a concern. EPA is concerned that manufacturing could be restarted in the future, and this action provides EPA the opportunity to evaluate and, as appropriate, control future uses associated with both Penta and Octa.

Phasing out these two chemicals, while spurring the development of safer alternatives, without compromising the benefits derived from flame retardant use, are priorities for EPA and various stakeholders. To promote these goals and to explore the safety of alternative flame retardant chemicals, EPA has convened a group of stakeholders in its Furniture Flame Retardancy Partnership, that includes chemical manufacturers, the furniture industry, government agencies and consumer groups. In addition, the Agency is evaluating PBDE chemical test data submitted by industry in the Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program and will make the results of this evaluation available this winter.

While flame retardants save lives and protect property, there have been unintended consequences from their use. PBDEs have been found in human breast milk, fish, aquatic birds and elsewhere in the environment. Toxicological testing indicates that these chemicals may be harmful to humans.

More information on PBDEs, the Significant New Use Rule and the Furniture Flame Retardancy Partnership is available at: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pbde .