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July 2004

Computer Takeback Campaign Blasts BFRs

Environmentalists have issued a new report blasting the presence of deca-PBDEs, a common brominated flame retardant (BFR), in dust from computer monitors - though the bromine industry trade association says such low levels of exposure are not harmful to humans.

The Computer Take-Back Campaign (CTBC) and Clean Production Action (CPA) issued a report June 3 saying that toxic fire retardants were discovered in dust taken from computer monitors in public locations such as offices and schools.

This and other reports say the chemicals are known to be reproductive and neurological hazards in animal lab tests. The highest levels found were a form of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) called deca-BDE. PBDEs are increasingly being found in human tissue and breast milk samples here in the U.S. and abroad, the report stated.

Peter O'Toole, U.S. Program Director of the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum (BSEF), said that while they are still looking at the data from the study, the deca-BDE detection level appears to be very low and the study sample very small.

He said the levels found in the study are similar to those in a study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and "a person would have to ingest about eighty pounds of dust samples from the EWG study in one day to go over the acceptable limit of toxic exposure."

Three forms of BFRs are already addressed in the Restrictions on Hazardous Substances Directive in Europe: octa, penta- and deca-BDEs. Octa- and penta-BDEs are no longer used in Europe, and will be phased out in the U.S. by the end of this year.

There is still controversy over whether deca-BDEs will actually be banned in Europe, as the European Commission is waiting for further studies.

In the U.S. four states have already banned octa- and penta-BDE's, and Maine's new law would follow Europe and ban deca-BDEs by 2008 if alternatives are available.

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