Toxic kids’ products bill dies in state House

  • Sat Mar 3rd, 2012 7:48pm
  • News

By Jonathan Kaminsky Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A bill to ban a pair of potentially carcinogenic flame-retardant chemicals from children’s products has died in the Washington state House amid budget intrigue in the Senate.

Supporters of the bill in both chambers expressed optimism Saturday that it would be revived in the likely event that the governor calls a special session to resolve the budget debate.

Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, who chairs the House Environment Committee, said he was confident the bill in its current form had the votes to pass the House, but that Friday was the wrong time to bring it to the floor given the tensions in the Senate.

Friday at 5 p.m. was the cutoff to introduce non-budgetary bills to the floor of either legislative chamber.

“It appears now that we’re headed toward a special session,” Upthegrove said. “I think the bill will be alive in the special session.”

In its most recent form, the bill would ban two forms of what are known as Tris chemicals: TCEP and chlorinated Tris.

The latter is a flame retardant that was used in children’s pajamas in the 1970s but was voluntarily taken off the market by manufacturers over health concerns. It has since returned to use, primarily as a fire retardant in polyurethane foam, a highly flammable but cost-effective component of many children’s products.

According to Citizens for Fire Safety, an entity promoting the chemical industry’s interests, TCEP hasn’t been used in the U.S. for years.

In its original form, the bill would also have required children’s product makers using potentially hazardous chemicals including Tris, formaldehyde and bisphenol A to find safer chemicals or materials as alternatives.

The bill was weakened in a narrow Senate committee vote, passed out of the Senate in its modified form, then largely restored in a House fiscal committee before failing to come up for a floor vote.

The measure is opposed by the chemical industry.

“If this bill becomes law it would limit fire protection options in Washington State,” said Jackson Morrill, director of the North American Flame Retardant Alliance, an arm of the American Chemistry Council, in a prepared statement. “It is important to note that the state agency charged with evaluating chemical safety has NOT listed (chlorinated Tris) as a chemical of high concern to children.”

In July, California’s Environmental Protection Agency added chlorinated Tris to that state’s list of known carcinogens, citing multiple two-year studies showing “statistically significant increases in the incidence of benign and malignant tumors” in both male and female lab rats exposed to the chemical.

No other state has banned chlorinated Tris, though the New York state Legislature is considering a measure to do so.

Supporters of a ban note that non-toxic alternatives are used by some manufacturers.

“The more we learn about these chemicals, the more we know that we need to ban them,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Seattle, who introduced the bill.