A bill banning a handful of toxic flame retardants thought to be harmful to kids is moving in the Legislature. This is the third time around for the toxics bill, and it deserves passage into law.
Besides banning five specific chemicals used in furnishings and children’s products in July 2016, the proposal gives the Department of Ecology power to act on other chemicals that may be used by manufacturers as substitutes in the future. Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1174 passed the state House earlier this month.
The vote was strongly bipartisan vote with 95 lawmakers in favor and only three opposed. This suggests that the tide may finally be turning in Washington against the chemical industry that has fought to retain its use of products that can cause cancer, harm the development of a fetus or a child, or accumulate in the environment.
“Toxic Hot Seat,” a 2013 HBO film based on investigative reports by the Chicago Tribune, helped broaden support for action a year ago. Yet even now, the measure from Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, a professional firefighter and Democrat from Sequim, faces uncertainty in the Senate.
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The Senate is where Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale has held up past proposals because he believed the legislation gave too much power to Ecology. The Association of Washington Business also has opposed giving the Department of Ecology more regulatory power, while supporting the ban on the specific chemicals targeted by the bill.
Among its provisions, HB 1174 prohibits the manufacture and sale of upholstered residential furniture or children’s products that contain flame retardants TCEP and TDCPP, which are known together as TRIS, as well as hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), and decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE). Ecology found those were chemicals, which can flake off of furnishings and other products, are of high concern to kids.
The association noted that the process used to identify those chemicals to ban by the Legislature is a workable process that it would prefer for bans of other chemicals in the future.
Despite the association’s cautions, staunch advocates of limited-government, including Republican Reps. David Taylor of Moxee and Matt Shea of Spokane Valley, signed on as co-sponsors of HB 1174 and voted for it on the House floor. The bill says that before Ecology can identify a chemical as high concern to children or begin its rule making to ban a chemical, it must submit a report to the Legislature and the cannot take effect until lawmakers have held a session.
HB 1174 was given a hearing a week ago by Ericksen in the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, which he chairs.
A second toxics measure sought by Gov. Jay Inslee gets Ecology started on a long-term project to encourage manufacturers to use alternatives to chemicals that pose harm to people and the environment. HB 1472 would have Ecology draw up chemical action plans of up to four chemicals every two years, and also require manufacturers to assess what alternatives they have to using them.
HB 1472 was heard Tuesday. Both measures face an April 1 deadline for moving out of committee.
Given the lopsided House vote on the bill banning the toxic flame retardants, its prospects look good in the Senate if allowed to come to the floor.
We urge Ericksen and the Senate leadership to let both bills move forward.