'Evening News' Blasts Flame-Retardant Materials

     “CBS Evening News” leveled a one-sided attack against widely used flame retardants in furniture and other products, featuring a liberal politician who wants to ban the chemicals.


     “You know, it makes me angry that I could have a child in the next couple years who would be impacted by these chemicals in my body,” state Rep. Hannah Pingree (D.-Maine) said on CBS May 19. Pingree is also the House majority leader in the Maine legislature according to “Evening News.”


     CBS correspondent Wyatt Andrews also included a senior toxicologist with the Environmental Protection Agency who said the chemicals “can affect the developing brain and they can affect the developing reproductive system,” but “there is very limited evidence whether or not they can cause cancer.”


     Still Andrews hyped the dangers of the chemical and said flame-retardant chemicals can be found in our bodies because of their widespread use on fabrics.


     “We all have it because for 30 years flame-retardant chemicals, hundreds of millions of pounds of them, have been embedded in furniture and consumer products in an effort to slow down fires and reduce deaths and injuries,” Andrews said. “But scientists are now raising red flags about the widely used brominated flame retardants called [polybrominated diphenyl ethers] PBDEs.”


     Reminiscent of a 1989 CBS “60 Minutes” report on the apple-preserving chemical Alar – in which reporter Ed Bradley allowed environmentalists from the National Resources Defense Council to use hyperbolic scare tactics – Andrews turned to environmentalist Russell Long, of the leftist group Friends of the Earth, who said “kids are swimming in fire retardants.”


     According to Andrews’ report, “the question is whether Deca’s ability to slow down fire is now outweighed by evidence it’s toxic to animals and showing up in humans.”


     But Andrews didn’t include Pingree’s counterpart, Maine State Minority Leader Josh Tardy, who isn’t ready to ban these chemicals – at least until a proven alternative has been found. He explained the threats of these flame-retardant chemicals are small when you look at the whole picture.


     “Deca [a PBDE] has been found in breast milk samples, but the highest levels ever reported are less than 500 parts per trillion and most reported levels are much lower than that. For perspective a part per trillion is equivalent to one second in 32,000 years,” Tardy wrote for the Bangor Daily News May 22, 2007.


     Andrews also didn’t focus on the benefits of flame retardant chemicals like PBDEs. According to Californians for Fire Safety (CFS), a group founded by Albemarle Corp., Chemtura Corp., and ICL Industrial Products, they are safe. Andrews did include a brief written statement from Chemtura, a maker of bromide flame retardant.


     “Flame retardants have been in use for more than 30 years, are well understood and are credited with saving thousands of lives,” the CFS Web site explained. “For example, one of the most commonly used flame retardants that would be banned under AB 706, Deca-BDE, is the most studied flame retardant in history and, after an exhaustive 10-year analysis by the European Union, was found to be safe for continued use. The US EPA, the National Academy of Sciences and others have reached similar conclusions.”


      According to the American Fire Safety Council (AFSC), these products do save many lives by slowing the spread of fire and providing essential escape time.


      “As producers and users of flame retardants, we are proud of the important role they play in saving lives,” Mark Buczek, chairman of the AFSC said in a press release.  “Whether in furniture, mattresses, television sets or automobiles, flame retardants work silently to protect the public and fire fighters and reduce injuries and property damage from fires.”