On Monday, the sole U.S. manufacturer of two flame retardants pledged to cease making both products next year. The firm had initiated discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency about a potential phase-out just last month (SN: 11/1/03, p. 275: Flaming Out? Days may be numbered for two fire retardants). This week's announcement accelerates by 4 years the compounds' recently mandated elimination in California. The European Union had already announced a ban on the two flame retardants, which are widely used in furniture and plastic products. That ban is slated to go into effect next year.
The chemicals–mixes of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)–have become ubiquitous pollutants in both the environment and people. Recent animal tests have shown that these chemicals are harmful at doses similar to those that would result in the milk, blood, and fat concentrations that had been measured in some people in North America (SN: 10/25/0