California Bans Flame Retardants Linked to Serious Health Problems

In a precedent-setting move, California has become the first state in the nation to ban two flame-retardant chemicals that have been shown to accumulate in the blood of mothers and nursing infants. The chemicals, known as PBDEs, are widely used to coat furniture, electronics, plastics, and foams. The California ban will go into effect in 2008, giving manufacturers time to adapt and find alternatives. A similar ban in Europe starts next summer, and China and South Korea are also considering bans. The flame retardants accumulate rapidly in the bodies of humans and wildlife, research shows, and they are suspected of contributing to learning disorders, attention deficit, and hyperactivity in kids. As embattled California Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed the ban into law on Saturday, he took a jab at the federal government: “When Washington is unable or unwilling to act, we must protect the health of our citizens.”