Legislature(2011 - 2012)SENATE FINANCE 532
04/08/2011 09:00 AM FINANCE
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SENATE BILL NO. 27 "An Act relating to flame retardants and to the manufacture, sale, and distribution of products containing flame retardants; relating to bioaccumulative toxic chemicals; and providing for an effective date." 9:40:26 AM SENATOR BILL WIELECHOWSKI, SPONSOR, explained that SB 27 focused on healthy families and safer homes. He explained that polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were flame retardant chemicals found in televisions, computers, furniture, mattresses, carpets, cell phones, microwaves, etc. He stressed that Alaskan's were at risk from PBDE exposure for three reasons: (1) Alaskans spent a significant amount of time indoors, which increased their exposure PBDE household dust; (2) Toxins including PBDEs, were concentrated in cold climates and carried in global air currents; and (3) Alaskans ate wild foods that concentrated PBDEs, such as marine mammals and some fish species. He informed the committee that U.S. companies had voluntarily agreed to stop manufacturing PBDEs beginning in 2012; however, foreign companies had not. He urged the support of the committee and emphasized that Alaskans needed the legislation to help protect their health and homes. 9:41:46 AM CARLA HART, STAFF, SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI, presented the highlights of the bill. She discussed that PBDEs were pervasive, could be released from products in the form of microscopic dust, and could be easily ingested, inhaled, and absorbed. The chemicals remained in the environment for extended periods of time, built up in fatty tissue, and became more concentrated as they moved up the food chain. She explained that PBDEs were neurotoxins, which impacted hormones that regulate how the human body functions. She relayed that couches manufactured prior to 2004 frequently contained at least one pound of the toxic chemicals. The chemicals could be ingested when a person ate food with their fingers. She stressed that the neurotoxins were transferred from mother to child during pregnancy and nursing and that small children often put items from the floor in their mouths. Exposure to small concentrations of PBDEs at critical stages of development could have permanent effects on development, and could potentially trigger cancers and other health problems decades later. Ms. Hart remarked that Senator Donny Olson had hosted a session on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) earlier in the session; the similarity of the impacts of FASD and PBDE exposure were notable; however, a pregnant woman could protect a child from FASD by avoiding alcohol. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not have the authority under current law to impose a ban of the toxic chemicals; therefore, individual states had begun to take action. The bill would not compromise fire safety, given that changes in product design had reduced the need for chemical flame retardants. She relayed that a safer chemical alternative had passed the scrutiny of the fire marshal for State of Washington and other alternatives were under consideration throughout the country. Supporters of the bill included the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association, Alaska Association of Professional Fire Fighters, Association of Village Council Presidents, Arc of Anchorage, Nome Eskimo Community, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, Alaska Nurses Association, and the Native Village of Savoonga. Ms. Hart noted that the Division of Environmental Health under the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) did not have a toxicologist despite the prevalence of household and industrial toxins. She discussed that the DEC fiscal note included funding for one toxicologist. The fiscal notes from the Departments of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and Public Safety (DPS) were zero. She detailed that the annual financial impact equated to approximately $139,000 or $0.20 per Alaskan. 9:45:33 AM Co-Chair Stedman delineated that there were three fiscal notes for SB 27, including two zero notes from DHSS and DPS and one fiscal note in the amount of $139,000 in general funds from DEC for the funding of one new full-time environmental program specialist position. 9:46:51 AM DR. SARAH JANSON, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL (via teleconference), spoke in support of SB 27. She was a physician who specialized in occupational and environmental medicine and was a reproductive biologist with expertise in chemicals that mimicked hormones. She explained that flame retardant chemicals such as PBDEs were hormone disrupting chemicals that interfered with the body's natural hormones including those critical in brain and reproductive system development. Flame retardants like PBDEs were common components in household items and had become incorporated into human bodies. Humans were among the most highly exposed; exposure came from multiple places, but was particularly prevalent in dust that leached from consumer products in households. Pregnant and nursing mothers passed chemicals to developing fetuses and infants during critical windows of brain and reproductive system development. Small children had been found to have exposure of up to three times more than their mothers due to their propensity to put items from the floor in their mouths. Ms. Janson explained that the chemicals had been found to disrupt the thyroid hormone and sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Health outcomes associated with harm in lab animals included damage to brain development that resulted in hyperactivity and memory problems, reproductive harm such as low sperm counts and small testicles, and cancer. She was troubled that many of the outcomes, which had once only been found in animal studies, had been found in human populations. A recent study of U.S. children had found that those with high PBDE exposure in the womb performed worse on learning, memory, attention, and physical development. The use of PBDEs would continue to add to the negative impact on the environment and human bodies. She relayed that continued exposure put future generations at risk for chronic disease and irreparable harm. Senator Olson asked how the dangers of PBDEs compared to other neurotoxins, such as cadmium, mercury, and other. Ms. Janson replied that it was difficult to separate the contribution of PBDEs from other heavy metals, mercury, lead, cadmium, and PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyls] that were historically used as flame retardant chemicals. The chemicals could all cause greater harm when combined together. She did not know a specific percentage that caused conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; however, she opined that the elimination of exposure to the chemicals would have a significant impact on public and reproductive health. Senator Olson queried the specific neoplasias that existed as a result of PBDEs. Ms. Janson responded that there was animal research data related to Deca PBDEs, which were listed by the EPA as a probable human carcinogens based on thyroid tumors and liver abnormalities. Senator Olson asked what negative effects had been seen in Europe that had caused the European Union to ban PBDEs. Ms. Janson answered that PBDE levels in breast milk in some European countries had declined subsequent to their removal from consumer products. She did not know whether a follow- up study on health impacts had been conducted; the body took a long time to metabolize the chemicals; therefore, it would take considerable time before health impacts could be measured as a result of the removal of PBDEs from products. 9:53:10 AM DR. ANDRE FELIZ, MEDICAL RESEARCHER, DOCTOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS, DEPARTMENT OF COMPARATIVE PATHOLOGY, CALIFORNIA CITIZENS FOR FIRE SAFETY (via teleconference), testified against SB 27. His expertise was in air particulate pollution and he explained that science had been unable to directly link health problems to PBDEs. There had been no reported literature about any adverse health impacts in humans resulting from exposure to Deca or other polybrominated fire retardants. His research focused on air particulate matter and how humans received toxins from dust and inhaled chemicals. He had found that the dust constituted a higher environmental danger than some of the toxic chemicals that people believed were in the dust. He stressed that the danger of fire was greater than the danger of PBDE exposure. He emphasized that 3,500 children had died as a result of fire in the prior year and 90 percent of the cases were at home. He stressed the importance of fire retardants in the prevention of fires. He had worked with burn victims and relayed that scars could last a lifetime. He believed that before banning PBDEs that it was important to consider their roll in saving lives. He addressed the danger of replacing PBDEs, which had been studied for over 30 years, with newer alternatives that had only been studied for a few years. 9:57:13 AM PETE ERRIGO, SELF, BIRD CREEK (via teleconference), testified against SB 27. He expressed concern that the removal of fire retardants would expose people to unnecessary risk. He believed there was legislation in place that would phase in new fire retardants and recommended allowing time for the bill to take effect. 9:58:30 AM PATTIE SAUNDERS, THE ARC OF ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), testified in support of SB 27. She discussed that the organization served Alaskans with developmental disabilities and mental health issues. She emphasized that preventing a single occurrence of developmental disability would save between $1 million and $3 million over a child's lifetime according to national experts and the Governor's Council on Special Education and Disabilities. One out of six families was impacted by developmental disability and the savings represented by preventable disabilities were "staggering." She highlighted that the bill would work to remove PBDEs from the environment and would help to protect brain development in children. The bill would create a registry of safe fire retardants that would protect children, families, and firefighters. She detailed that monetary savings provided by the bill would be substantial; the prevention of 10 disabilities per year would save between $10 million and $30 million over the next ten years. She was perplexed by testimony that stated concern about burn victims but downplayed the impacts of chemicals that could cause disabilities in children, which could be replaced by equally effective safer alternatives. She queried the relationship between the testifier and chemical manufacturers or industry representatives. She reiterated that $139,000 per year was a small amount to pay and wondered whether committee members could face the parents of babies born with preventable diseases. She opined that critics of the bill were unwilling to take modest steps to protect children and other. 10:02:48 AM DR. LAUREN HEINE, ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER, was present to discuss alternatives to PBDEs. She worked with businesses such as Hewlett-Packard, Apple, and Walmart that were interested in developing products that were beneficial for human health and the environment. She pointed out that a fire retardant must meet required fire safety performance to be considered an alternative; therefore, banning PBDEs would not restrict fire safety. She stressed that although fire safety had saved lives there was no evidence that PDBEs had done so. United States manufacturers had agreed to phase out PBDEs; however, the chemicals were still imported into the country in products. She informed the committee that Walmart had recently banned products that contained the chemicals. Mattress manufacturers did not need PBDEs and used a flame retardant barrier instead. Plastic manufacturers such as DSM, Apple, Seagate, Hewlett- Packard, and other did not use any brominated flame retardants. She thought it was odd that related bans were normally seen negatively. She believed the state would be sending an important signal that: (1) People needed to know the contents in products that they were making and selling; and (2) Manufacturers needed to make safer alternatives that were consistent with what people valued. She pointed out that DOW Chemical had just offered an alternative to a brominated flame retardant that had health benefits and would be used with EPA partnerships. She stressed that bills like SB 27 sent important signals through the supply chain and drove innovation for new products and processes in the U.S. She thought there was an opportunity to move towards safer and healthier products. 10:07:36 AM Senator Olson asked how the cost increase due to the use of alternative flame retardant chemicals would impact young parents and other consumers. Senator Wielechowski responded that both fire safety and health safety could be accomplished. He did not believe there was any evidence that the ban on PBDEs in Europe and up to 13 other states had caused an increase in fire related burns. He represented lower income areas in Anchorage and he was sympathetic to their needs. Bans had caused companies to become more innovative and to provide safer alternatives. He did not believe a cost increase would result from a ban on the chemicals because safer options were available and were currently used in 12 other states and throughout Europe. The ban on PBDEs by large companies such as Walmart, Apple, and Hewlett-Packard, was significant and would help to keep costs down. He emphasized that Alaska was particularly affected by the risks posed by the chemicals; studies showed large amounts of PBDEs in the breast milk of Yup'ik mothers due to their subsistence lifestyle. SB 27 was HEARD and HELD in Committee for further consideration.