Great Lakes Chemical says it is voluntarily phasing out production of two controversial polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardantspenta- and octabromodiphenyl etherby the end of 2004.
The chemicals have been dogged by studies showing high levels of persistence in the environment and bioaccumulation. They are also facing a ban in California that will take effect by 2008 and one in Europe next year.
The Great Lakes move is effectively a ban on penta production in the U.S. because the company is the only domestic manufacturer. EPA, which had been in discussions with Great Lakes about a phaseout, says it will talk with remaining suppliers of octa and ensure that there are no new applications for penta or octa in the U.S.
Great Lakes says the phaseout was made possible after a review of a penta replacement, Firemaster 550, which is a halogenated aryl ester/phosphate blend. Tests found that Firemaster 550 isnt persistent in the environment, bioaccumulative, or toxic. It will be used in polyurethane foam applications, such as furniture cushions, where penta had been used. Great Lakes will end penta and octa manufacturing in Arkansas and scale up Firemaster 550 production by the end of next year.
Activists at the Environmental Working Group arent satisfied with the phaseout because it doesnt include decabromodiphenyl ether, a popular flame retardant that the group says is also bioaccumulative. Great Lakes disagrees. It has very low bioaccumulation, so we believe it has a vastly different profile. Nor does EPA believe it should be limited, says Angelo C. Brisimitzakis, head of the firms flame-retardant business.