Health and Environment Groups on Alert for Test Case on Chemical Safety

A hazardous chemical is likely to be accepted as “safe for consumer use” by the European Commission this week. Deca-BDE, which is used as a flame retardant for electrical goods and textiles and is found as a contaminant in food, is known to accumulate in the human body when ingested. If Deca-BDE is accepted as safe, confidence in the EU’s proposed chemical safety legislation, known as REACH, will be completely undermined, according to three leading public health organizations in Europe and the US. Commission and Member State chemicals civil servants meet on March 17 to formulate their recommendations on the basis of two risk assessments of the controversial flame retardant chemical, Deca-BDE. A new critique released today challenges the ‘sound science’ on which authorities conclude the chemical is safe for ongoing consumer use. The critique1 is released the same week that EU member states meet to review recommendations on risk assessment with REACH.

Deca-BDE, a brominated flame retardant commonly used in electronic products and textiles, is set to be given the green light for ongoing use, despite ongoing concerns about the effect of this chemical on children's brain development which are substantial enough to warrant further testing for developmental neurotoxicity, and in the face of mounting evidence of its widespread contamination in humans and the environment. In May 2004, the UK rapporteur released the Final Environmental Draft of the Risk Assessment and concluded that there was no need for further risk reduction efforts for this chemical while further information is gathered, even though the supposed cautionary risk assessment significantly underestimated actual industrial emissions.

In February 2005, the French rapporteur released a new Human Health Draft of the Risk Assessment of Deca-BDE, which concluded no further risk reduction measures were needed for consumer exposure, but that further data is required for exposure in workers and humans exposed via the environment.

The critique released by the European Public Health Alliance - Environment Network (EEN) and Clean Production Action outlines the consistent bias in the European reports to allow ongoing use of the chemical even though the rapporteurs admit there is insufficient basis on which to 1 Kaatz Chary, Lin and Rossi, Mark (2005) Comments on the E.U. Risk Assessment on Bis (Pentabromodiphenyl) Ether (Decabromodiphenyl Ether) Clean Production Action and European Public Health Alliance – Environment Network.

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