Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5805

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING TOXIC SUBSTANCES.

Vote Date:

3/12/2008

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/7/2008

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Environment Committee; Rep. O'Rourke; Rep. Urban; Clean Water Action

REASONS FOR BILL:

To phase out two classes of chemicals that may pose environmental and health risks where some feel safer alternatives exist.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Commissioner Gina McCarthy, DEP requested and strongly supports this bill. The bill would prohibit the use of sale of alkylphenol ethoxylate containing commercial cleaning or laundry products beginning January 1, 2009 and would expand prohibition to consumer cleaning, laundry products and personal care products beginning in 2012. She states that these APEs and their breakdown products are toxic to fish and act as an endocrine disruptor. She states that there are alternatives to APEs and some companies have begun to use them in place of APEs already. The second part of the bill phases out the use of polybrominated flame retardants with a focus on products that are used in the home and office. Their concern is with deca-BDE, which is used as a flame-retardant and classified with chemicals that are toxic, persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in food chains and thus, pose risks to human health and ecosystems. They believe that the alternatives are no less safe, but are less toxic. The bill mirrors a similar law enacted by the Maine legislature last year.

Ellen Blaschinski, Department of Public Health states that deca-PBDEs have led to unforeseen human health and environmental issues. She states that evidence continues to emerge that deca can break down in the environment and our bodies to lower brominated PBDEs that can be more toxic and persistent. Deca-PBDEs itself is a possible carcinogenic risk and can affect thyroid function and brain development. She does not feel that fire safety or public health will be compromised, and that the bill gives enough time for alternatives to be become available. Also, she believes this is feasible, and points to companies such as Dell and IBM that have adopted policies that stipulate that suppliers not use deca-PBDEs in their products.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Martin Mador, Legislative and Political Chair, CT Sierra Club supports this bill. The Sierra Club considers toxic substances in our lives a critically important environmental issue and urges adoption of this legislation.

Connecticut Nurses' Association supports the bill. They believe PBDEs are associated with public health concerns such as cancer, birth defects, thyroid disruption, hearing deficits, learning disorders and mental retardation. They point of scientific evidence that PBDEs are rising rapidly in the environment and human bodies, especially in North America, where the use of PBDEs is highest. Also, some of the chemicals that are use today were banned for use in children's' sleepwear, but are still creating exposure to children through furniture or electronics. They point out that removing these chemicals will reduce exposure of workers in the factories and firefighters, and they feel that there are safe alternatives.

Nancy Simcox, Board Member, Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health supports this bill. Ms. Simcox also is employed as an industrial hygienist at the UConn Health Center, Division of Public Health and Population Sciences. She participated in a project where her urine and blood were measured for twenty chemicals, including those in the bill. She states that these compounds are environmental pollutants and pose a risk to human health, and the concentration of these compounds is increasing. She points to studies that PBDEs may harm the developing brain, impair reproductive systems, and harm thyroid function. She is concerned about the exposure to these chemicals for the next generation, and points out that some of the highest concentrations of these compounds exist in breast milk from women in the US.

Sara A. Uhl, Clean Water Action supports this bill. She expresses concern about the use of deca-BDE, as it has been associated with numerous health concerns, as listed in previous testimony. She points to a study of Connecticut residents who took part in a study in 2007 which confirmed the presence of PBDEs in each participant. She states that removing these chemicals will result in the use of safer alternatives that will meet fire safety standards. She points to other states and nations that have taken some level of action to phase out deca-BDE. She also points to many manufacturers that have established policies resulting in a phase out of these chemicals. She also expresses concerns about APEs and states that there are suspected hormone disruptors, as has been shown through the altered reproduction, feminization and lower survival rates in fish living in water contaminated by these chemicals.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

State Rep. Anthony J. D'Amelio opposes this bill. His concern is on behalf of the nearly 700 employees of the Chemtura Corporation which is located in his district and is one of the three largest producers of deca-PBDE. He points out that the manufacturing of the other two forms of PBDE's (octa and penta) was stopped in 2004. He points to studies by the US EPA, the US National Academy of Sciences and the European Union which have concluded that deca-PBDE presents no risk to humans or the environment. He feels it is the most effective flame retardant available. He states that in 2006 the DPH opposed a ban stating that it would be problematic because of its wide-use and effectiveness.

Michael A. Maglione, Fire Chief, Waterbury Fire Department opposes the ban of PDBEs. Along with other fire chiefs, insurance companies, hospitals, community groups and activists in Connecticut have joined together to form the “Citizens for Fire Safety” Coalition. He is concerned about removing this flame-retardant and does not feel there is a safe alternative yet. He feels the use of this chemical is in part responsible for fire-related deaths to drop by more than 64 percent in the last five years.

Geoffrey Herald, Fire Chief, Danbury Fire Department, shares the exact concerns of Mr. Maglione.

David Potack, Owner, Unitex Textile Rental Services opposes this bill. As the owner of the leading provider of healthcare laundry services in Connecticut, he is concerned about the necessity of enacting a punitive and reactionary remedy to an issue that has no proven basis in sound science. He states that he has not seen any evidence that the danger of APEs has been substantiated, nor that the alternatives are safe or effective. He is concerned that eliminating what he feels is the most effective and safe chemical available will hinder his ability to clean and sanitize products such as linen and uniform products, which have been exposed to infection and contamination. He is concerned about the cost-effectiveness of the alternative products as well.

William A. Scheffer, Vice President North America, SI Group is opposed to the banning of APEs, calling it arbitrary and without valid scientific justification. He believes that bans are extreme and should be reserved for products for which there is evidence of unacceptable risk to human health; he does not believe that kind of evidence exists for APEs. He states that the US EPA concluded that there is no need to ban the use of NPE's and that adopting such legislation would be inconsistent with the Federal Government. He finds no evidence that the level of these chemicals in US waters is above EPA's WQC nor that the level is rising. He lists concerns that alternative detergent formulations will not be as effective in disinfecting medical garments, and that they will be less cost-effective.

Barbara Losey, Deputy Director of the Alkylphenols & Ethoxylates Research Council (APERC) opposes this bill. She believes that APEs do not represent an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment according to the US EPA. She states that Environment Canada, the EU and Washington State have done extensive studies which find that these chemicals are not persistent, bioaccumumative toxins. She also points to research that concentration of these chemicals in US waters are below the EPA's Water Quality Criteria, and no evidence that the level is rising. She also feels that cost-effectiveness is an issue as others above have pointed out.

Debra Durbin, Resident, Fire Safety Advocate, Chemtura Employee opposes this bill. Chemtura is a company that produces decaBDE and she feels the chemical provides safety in products that other chemicals will not. She points to situations, such as plane crashes, where people have been saved by flame retardants. According to the National Academy of Science and the National Association of State Fire Marshals, decaBDE is the best-studied, most-analyzed and most effective flame retardant available and it is safe for its intended applications. She points to the EU study which stated that there is no risk to human health. Also, California and Illinois both have defeated similar bills or declined to act because of data that these products are safe.

Robert Campbell, on behalf of Bromine Science and Environmental Forum and Chemtura, opposes this bill. He points to the studies by the EU, Canada and the National Academy of Sciences as others have. He does not believe there are safer alternatives that are as cost-effective that work as well as decaBDE. He feels the ban will result in the use of less tested substances and encourage manufacturers to settle for less fire safety. He states, as others have, that decaBDE is the most scrutinized flame retardant in use today, and that there is no real equal alternative.

Reported by: Marissa Kirshenbaum

Date: March 19, 2008