A California bill proposes a partial ban of polybrominated diphenyl ether use in products made or distributed in the state, but recent discussions have narrowed the bill's scope.
The principal target, penta-BDE, is a chemical used in foam products and is known to accumulate in human breast milk and marine animals.
Primary sponsor Wilma Chan, Assembly majority leader, made two amendments to Assembly Bill 302 on May 22. She removed from the bill the flame-retardant-additive deca-BDE and extended the bill's proposed implementation date from 2006 to 2008. Later, she agreed to drop a labeling requirement that could jeopardize a product's market viability.
Flame retardants of deca-BDE, minerals and phosphorus help polymer materials makers meet fire-safety requirements in televisions, electronic enclosures, printed circuit boards and electrical connectors.
Meeting in Sacramento, the Assembly passed the bill on a 45-29 vote May 27 and sent it for Senate consideration.
Removal of deca-BDE eases some - but not all - pressure on recyclers.
``Generally, Sacramento has been very eager to work with the recycling community,'' Trip Allen, chief technical officer and vice president of recycler MBA Polymers Inc. in Richmond, Calif., said by telephone. ``It is encouraging they are working with us not to negatively impact recycling.''
Representatives of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc., a Washington lobbying group, encouraged Chan to exclude recycling materials from the bill.
``An amendment to exclude recycled-content materials is essential to our ability to recover and sell plastics from computer and television sets and most electronics enclosures,'' Allen said.
Chan indicated she would encourage the Senate to adopt such an amendment.
Chan introduced the bill Feb. 6. The Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials approved the bill in a 5-2 vote in late April. At a committee hearing, a senior citizen's group and a fire chief expressed concerns about a fire-safety gap if penta-BDE is phased out.
The bill's analyst listed 21 environment, health-care and education-related groups in support and seven opponents, including electronics, chemical and retail trade groups and MBA. With deca-BDE removed from the bill, MBA is unlikely to oppose a penta-BDE ban.
Elements of penta-BDE can escape from polyurethane foam furniture or building materials. The contaminants may build up rapidly in human bodies and wildlife, interfere with reproductive cycles, measurably change childhood development and alter thyroid hormones, according to some researchers. The European Union banned penta-BDE this year.
Principal PBDE makers have organized as the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum in Brussels, Belgium, to fight for continued use. In opposing the California legislation, BSEF's Washington office represents Albemarle Corp.'s principal operational office in Baton Rouge, La.; Great Lakes Chemical Corp.'s flame retardant division in West Lafayette, Ind.; and Dead Sea Bromine Group's flame retardant division in Beer Sheva, Israel. DSBG is a unit of Israel Chemicals Ltd.