This August, at a meeting of Environmental Protection Agency scientists who are studying emerging pollutants, one family of chemicals unexpectedly stole the show: brominated flame retardants. Recently slated for bans in Europe and California, two classes of these compounds–mixes of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)–have had a low profile within the agency. But rank-and-file chemists and toxicologists raised what became the meeting's central question: What would it take for EPA to consider nationwide bans?
As it turns out, the U.S. manufacturer of both flame retardants has taken things into its own hands.
On Oct. 24, EPA issued a terse statement: "Great Lakes Chemical Corp. has initiated discussions with EPA regarding a possible voluntary phaseout of penta- and octa-PBDEs along with a full evaluation of a viable alternative." This week, Great Lakes spokesperson Wendy