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Doctors and Nurses Urge Legislators to Eliminate Toxic Flame Retardants

Health Care Letter Cites Potential to Harm Learning, Reproduction

March 21, 2007

(Seattle) – Doctors and nurses from around Washington are saying “the science is in hand” on the toxic flame retardants PBDEs and are urging quick passage of a bill to ban all forms of the chemical. A letter signed by 300 Washington State physicians, nurses and other health professionals cites harmful health impacts from PBDEs including learning and behavioral disorders, memory impairments, disruption of thyroid function, reproductive effects, and cancer. The letter’s authors note that extensive evidence shows the buildup of PBDEs in people, orca whales, and the environment, and new studies find that the deca form breaks down into other forms of PBDEs that have already been phased out.


“The learning, behavioral and memory impairments linked to PBDE exposures are permanent, making it essential that we act swiftly to eliminate PBDEs,” said Barry Lawson, MD, Immediate Past President of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Extensive research in laboratory studies documents the hazards from PBDE exposures, and experience indicates this toxicity translates into harm to human health. The good news is that we can take actions now that will greatly benefit our children’s health and futures, and bring us closer to the vision embodied in this letter of a Washington free of harmful toxic chemicals.” 


The letter notes that an estimated 300,000 children in Washington struggle with developmental, learning and behavioral abnormalities.  In addition to these effects on the developing brain, PBDE exposures are also associated with reproductive harm and cancers. Richard Grady, MD with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility emphasized the need for prevention. “As a pediatric urologist, I’m acutely aware of the vulnerability of the reproductive system to chemical threats,” Grady said, “We have science indicating harm and safer alternatives are available: now it is up to us to prevent further harm and protect future generations by banning all forms of PBDEs, including deca.”


Judy Huntington, MN, RN, Executive Director of the Washington State Nurses Association noted the need to take legislative action to protect health. “Since PBDEs are everywhere in our food, homes and offices, there is no way for an individual to avoid exposure,” said Huntington. “This is truly a case where prevention is essential. That is why we’re asking our legislators to take action to get PBDEs out of TVs, electronics and furniture. By passing this legislation, we can take vital steps forward in protecting our state’s children, families and workers from permanent yet preventable harm.”


Signatories to the letter include leaders of the Washington State Medical Association, the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Washington State Nurses Association and other major medical and public health organizations. W. Hugh Maloney, MD, MHA, FACP, President, Washington State Medical Association; Jim Krieger, MD, MPH, Chief, Epidemiology Planning and Evaluation Unit, Public Health - Seattle and King County; and  Patricia W. Wahl, PhD, Dean, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington are among the health professionals urging PBDE elimination.


Legislation to phase out all forms of PBDEs has passed out of the House (HB 1024), and currently awaits action in the Senate ((ESHB 1024).  The legislation is supported by major Washington State health associations: Washington State Medical Association, Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, the Washington State Nurses Association, Washington Association of Occupational Health Nurses, the National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners, Washington State Chapter; the School Nurse Association of Washington, and the Washington State Public Health Association. The legislation is also supported by the Washington State Firefighters Association, the Washington State Council of Firefighters and many other health and environmental organizations.








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