Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

03/17/2010 01:30 PM Senate HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 193 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved CSSB 172(HSS) Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
          SB 295-FLAME RETARDANTS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS                                                                       
2:03:04 PM                                                                                                                    
Chair Davis announced the consideration of SB 295.                                                                              
MEGAN ROGERS,  Intern to Senator  Bill Wielechowski, said  SB 295                                                               
will ban  the use  of Polybrominated  diphenyl ethers  (PBDEs) as                                                               
flame retardants in consumer  products like mattresses, textiles,                                                               
and electronics.  These chemicals are bio-accumulative  and toxic                                                               
to  humans  and  the  environment.   When  PBDEs  burn  they  can                                                               
potentially  create more  toxic substances,  including a  form of                                                               
dioxin, making them highly dangerous  for firefighters battling a                                                               
blaze.  Alternatives  to  their   use  are  available  and  cost-                                                               
effective.  Eleven states  have  proposed and  four have  enacted                                                               
PDBE policies  prohibiting the manufacture, distribution  and use                                                               
of products containing PBDEs.                                                                                                   
SB 295 will empower the  Department of Environmental Conservation                                                               
(DEC)  to educate  retailers to  identify  products that  contain                                                               
these chemicals and  fine companies that fail to  comply with the                                                               
ban.  The Department  of  Environmental  Conservation (DEC)  must                                                               
develop  a  list  of  chemicals   of  concern  along  with  other                                                               
alternatives and every three years  report on the progress of the                                                               
ban.  Exemptions apply  if the  prohibited product  is part  of a                                                               
transportation  vehicle  or   if  the  product  is   used  in  an                                                               
industrial mining process or a resold item.                                                                                     
Every year 50 million pounds of  PBDEs are built into products in                                                               
North  America  even  though  it's   a  developmental  toxin  and                                                               
possible  carcinogen. SB  295 attempts  to protect  Alaskans from                                                               
preventable exposure to these toxins.                                                                                           
2:07:28 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN  asked if the intent  is that this will  apply to                                                               
household  products or  if  it  is intended  to  be more  broadly                                                               
applicable to public buildings.                                                                                                 
MS.  ROGERS  said most  major  name-brand  companies already  use                                                               
alternatives to PDBEs.                                                                                                          
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  added that  the bill essentially  says that                                                               
the  use,  manufacture  or  distribution  of  PBDE  chemicals  is                                                               
prohibited with  the limited exceptions  listed on page  2, lines                                                               
21-30. It just so happens that  the majority of the products that                                                               
contain these chemicals are in households.                                                                                      
SENATOR PASKVAN asked if there's  any evidence that banning these                                                               
chemicals  would  increase  the  frequency of  fires  or  related                                                               
MS.  ROGERS  deferred the  question  to  Ms. Verbrugge  with  the                                                               
Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).                                                                                
2:11:00 PM                                                                                                                    
LORI VERBRUGGE, Department of Health  and Social Services (DHSS),                                                               
said  she is  a  toxicologist  so her  expertise  relates to  the                                                               
environmental behavior of PBDE chemicals  and their effect on the                                                               
health  on humans  and  animals. She  doesn't  have expertise  to                                                               
answer  the specific  question regarding  the possible  increased                                                               
risk of fire and related injuries.                                                                                              
SENATOR PASKVAN asked  if she has any  anecdotal information that                                                               
would  indicate   an  unintended  consequence  of   banning  PBDE                                                               
MS VERBRUGGE replied she hasn't heard anything to that effect.                                                                  
2:12:33 PM                                                                                                                    
DR.  DAVID   HEIMBACH,  Professor   of  Surgery,   University  of                                                               
Washington,  said  he takes  care  of  all  of the  Alaskan  burn                                                               
patients and there  were about 35 last year. He  said that he has                                                               
very strong feelings that sort  of flame retardant should be used                                                               
in sleepwear  and mattresses because  people who don't  have this                                                               
protection  are at  significant risk  in  the event  of fire.  He                                                               
related a  story of a  six-week-old baby whose crib  mattress did                                                               
not have  flame retardant. A dog  knocked a candle into  the crib                                                               
and  the baby  sustained a  devastating  75 percent  burn, but  a                                                               
pillow in the bed had flame retardant and did not catch fire.                                                                   
DR. HEIMBACH  stressed that he is  not "in the pocket"  of anyone                                                               
who produces  flame retardant, but  he believes that  having some                                                               
kind of flame retardant in products  that are at risk of catching                                                               
fire is imperative. He related another  incident of a 70 year old                                                               
woman whose  chenille robe caught  fire when she leaned  over her                                                               
gas stove. She  sustained a 35 percent total body  burn. This was                                                               
devastating for the  woman and her grandchildren  who watched her                                                               
catch fire.                                                                                                                     
He urged the committee to  think very carefully before completely                                                               
banning  fire  retardants.  The Environmental  Protection  Agency                                                               
(EPA)  is  working with  manufacturers  to  remove deca-BDE  from                                                               
flame retardants by 2013 and he  believes that it would be highly                                                               
premature for a  state to ban their use before  an alternative is                                                               
2:16:53 PM                                                                                                                    
PATTI  SAUNDERS,  Director  of  Development,  ARC  of  Anchorage,                                                               
stated  strong support  for SB  295.  She explained  that ARC  of                                                               
Anchorage is  a private  not-for-profit organization  that serves                                                               
people with  developmental disabilities and mental  health issues                                                               
so that  they can lead  rich and  productive lives. She  said she                                                               
and her  coworkers would be happy  to go out of  business because                                                               
all preventable  disabilities have been prevented,  but they need                                                               
legislative   help   to    address   prevention.   Learning   and                                                               
developmental disabilities impact the  quality of life for people                                                               
and their  families and  impose a financial  burden on  the state                                                               
through special  education and increased  health care  costs. The                                                               
incidence  of learning  and developmental  disabilities has  been                                                               
rising  rapidly.  In  fact,  7.3 percent  of  the  public  school                                                               
students in the Anchorage School District have disabilities.                                                                    
Scientific evidence has proven  that certain chemicals, including                                                               
deca-BDE, can  cause learning and developmental  disorders. Young                                                               
children's   developing  brains   and  bodies   are  particularly                                                               
susceptible to  exposure and  the damage  can be  permanent. PBDE                                                               
residues have  been consistently found  in tissue samples  of new                                                               
mothers and their infants. Ingesting  contaminated breast milk is                                                               
one of  two major sources of  PBDE exposure in children.  This is                                                               
an  issue  worldwide,  although North  American  women  have  the                                                               
largest average body  burden of PBDE's. SB 295  will help protect                                                               
children from needless  exposure to this toxic  chemical. So much                                                               
in life can't  be controlled but adults do have  an obligation to                                                               
their children to take responsibility  for things that can make a                                                               
difference. SB 295 can make a difference.                                                                                       
MS.  SAUNDERS referenced  the previous  testimony and  noted that                                                               
the International Association of  Firefighters has gone on record                                                               
opposing the use of PDBEs  because their use puts firefighters at                                                               
much higher risk.                                                                                                               
2:22:56 PM                                                                                                                    
JIM GILL, representing  himself, stated opposition to  SB 295. He                                                               
personally knows  people whose lives  were saved because  of fire                                                               
retardants.  Until  there's  a better  solution,  the  costs  can                                                               
outweigh whatever benefit might be achieved by passing SB 295.                                                                  
2:24:07 PM                                                                                                                    
GREG  PATTERSON,  representing  himself,   said  he  has  been  a                                                               
volunteer fireman much  of his life. He carries  burn victims out                                                               
of  buildings  and he  strongly  believes  that people  need  the                                                               
protection provided  by flame retardants.  He questioned  why the                                                               
ban is  placed on some  but not  all products if  these chemicals                                                               
are so dangerous, and suggested it  might be better to wait until                                                               
the definitive  research is  finished before  making this  a law.                                                               
The benefits  of these life-saving retardants  might outweigh the                                                               
dangers  of  using  them,  but  that won't  be  clear  until  the                                                               
research is done. While studies  of these bio-accumulative toxins                                                               
do indicate  danger, the  Center for  Disease Control  has stated                                                               
that the  conditions have  to be ideal  to enter  the environment                                                               
and  the exposure  has to  be acute  and repeated.  He urged  the                                                               
committee  to wait  until all  of  the information  is in  before                                                               
making these chemicals illegal.                                                                                                 
2:28:19 PM                                                                                                                    
KRISTIN  RYAN,   Director,  Division  of   Environmental  Health,                                                               
Department of Environmental Conservation  (DEC), Alaska, said she                                                               
is available for questions.                                                                                                     
2:28:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SARA  HANNON, representing  herself, said  she recently  became a                                                               
registered  nurse and  she is  speaking in  strong support  of SB
295.  It will  phase  out  PBDEs and  support  the  use of  safer                                                               
alternatives that are already on  the market. PBDEs are linked to                                                               
thyroid  problems,  which  is   significant  because  changes  in                                                               
thyroid  hormone levels  affect  almost all  the  systems in  the                                                               
body. Since safer  alternatives are available, there  should be a                                                               
law supporting  their use. During clinical  rotations she learned                                                               
that  some babies  and  children  may spend  a  year  or more  in                                                               
hospitals  sleeping on  mattresses  that may  contain PBDEs.  The                                                               
first day she rotated in the  emergency room a woman came in with                                                               
an inhalation injury  from her couch that was  treated with flame                                                               
retardant and didn't  burn. She later died and  the physician and                                                               
nurses speculated  that it  was because  she inhaled  toxic fumes                                                               
from the couch. SB 295 makes a lot of sense, she concluded.                                                                     
2:31:28 PM                                                                                                                    
PAMELA K.  MILLER Executive Director, Alaska  Community Action on                                                               
Toxics (ACAT), said she is a  biologist speaking in support of SB
295. ACAT  is a statewide environmental  health organization that                                                               
conducts  research and  provides educational  programs, technical                                                               
assistance,  and training.  She noted  that she  provided written                                                               
information about  the harms related  to this class  of chemicals                                                               
and  the strong  support  firefighting  and health  organizations                                                               
have expressed for the ban.                                                                                                     
PBDEs  are  used  in plastic  casings  of  consumer  electronics,                                                               
upholstered furniture,  and mattresses,  but there are  safer and                                                               
effective  alternatives. PBDEs  are chemically  similar to  PCBs,                                                               
which  have been  banned for  30 years.  They are  persistent and                                                               
tend to accumulate in the bodies of animals and people.                                                                         
Addressing  fire  safety,  she   said  that  phasing  these  fire                                                               
retardant chemicals out does not  mean lowering safety standards.                                                               
Many electronic manufacturers have  already adopted new materials                                                               
and designs  that meet  safety codes without  relying on  deca or                                                               
other bromanated flame retardants.  These alternate products have                                                               
saved thousands of  lives and their use has  not been accompanied                                                               
by an increase in fires or fire casualties.                                                                                     
MS.  MILLER  said  they  know that  people  are  exposed  through                                                               
inhalation of  indoor air  and dust  particles and  through foods                                                               
that are contaminated  with PBDEs. Exposure occurs  in the uterus                                                               
and infants  are exposed through  the mother's breast  milk. Over                                                               
time PBDEs have increased significantly  in the bodies of people,                                                               
particularly  in North  America. Northern  people are  at greater                                                               
risk of exposure because these  chemicals are transported through                                                               
wind  and ocean  currents and  they  tend to  concentrate in  the                                                               
flesh  of animals  that  are used  as  traditional food  sources.                                                               
Alaskans  may also  be at  higher  risk because  their homes  are                                                               
closed in more than homes in warmer climates.                                                                                   
PDBEs are  known to harm neurodevelopment,  reproduction, thyroid                                                               
function,  and are  implicated in  immune system  suppression. SB
295 is  an important measure  to protect the health  of Alaskans,                                                               
particularly those fighting fires.  It is especially important as                                                               
a  measure to  protect the  health of  children whose  developing                                                               
brains  are more  vulnerable.  SB 295  will  not compromise  fire                                                               
safety or  harm Alaska  businesses because  of the  prevalence of                                                               
safer alternatives. She urged passage.                                                                                          
2:37:22 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  asked  if she  has  any  information  regarding                                                               
whether the ban of PBDEs  would increase the frequency of hazards                                                               
or related injuries of fire.                                                                                                    
MS. MILLER answered  that in places where PBDEs  have been banned                                                               
there has been no compromise in fire safety.                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  referenced the  testimony  that  cited the  CDC                                                               
research and asked if the  scientific community is divided on the                                                               
2:38:53 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MILLER responded  she  believes that  the  consensus in  the                                                               
scientific  and  health  communities  is  quite  clear  and  more                                                               
studies are coming  out in peer review literature  every day. The                                                               
EPA  recognized   the  significant  harm  that   deca  and  other                                                               
brominated flame  retardants present  and negotiated  a voluntary                                                               
phase  out with  three major  manufacturers. She  reiterated that                                                               
there are  effective, safe,  and economical  alternatives already                                                               
on the market.  This bill is not about  compromising fire safety.                                                               
That wouldn't be responsible, but  it is responsible to phase out                                                               
this class of chemicals that are highly harmful to human health.                                                                
SENATOR  PASKVAN summarized  that she  believes that  fire safety                                                               
will  be comparable  and the  health  risks to  Alaskans will  be                                                               
MS. MILLER agreed.                                                                                                              
2:40:44 PM                                                                                                                    
SHARON  WHYTAL, representing  herself, said  she is  a registered                                                               
nurse who supports SB 295 and  she would urge the committee to do                                                               
likewise. As  a nurse,  she is  concerned about  emerging science                                                               
linking PBDEs  to adverse health  effects including  learning and                                                               
memory  impairment,   brain  development,  cancer,   and  thyroid                                                               
problems. Higher  concentrations of these chemicals  are found in                                                               
northern  regions, but  scientists are  finding impacts  at lower                                                               
SB  295  is an  important  measure  to  protect workers  and  the                                                               
general public.  In fact, the American  Public Health Association                                                               
has passed a  resolution urging state and  federal governments to                                                               
phase out the use of PDBEs  in products manufactured in the U. S.                                                               
Safer alternatives are already available  so fire safety wouldn't                                                               
be compromised by  eliminating PDBEs. As a society we  need to be                                                               
proactive about health issues; many  other countries have already                                                               
taken this step, she concluded.                                                                                                 
CHAIR  DAVIS  urged  anyone  who would  like  to  submit  written                                                               
testimony to do so before the  meeting on Monday. She held SB 295                                                               
in committee.                                                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects