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Scaled-back toxics bill before Wash. Senate panel

Jonathan Kaminsky, Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- A Washington state Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would ban two carcinogenic flame retardants in car seats, strollers and other products made for young children.

The measure considered by the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee to ban TCEP and chlorinated Tris — also known as TDCPP — was scaled back from the version passed by the Democratic-controlled House earlier this month. The ban would take effect by 2015.

Both versions would make Washington the first state to ban chlorinated Tris, a chemical that rose in use after Washington state banned a class of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDE's, from children's products in 2009.

New York state banned TCEP from children's products two years ago.

Most of those testifying at the hearing spoke in favor of the underlying House bill, which they said would provide more protection to children, adults and firefighters.

"We have enough exposure to toxic chemicals in the course of our occupation that we don't need more toxic soup mixed into the smoke that we're already exposed to," said Geoff Simpson, a lobbyist for the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters.

Unlike the House bill, the current Senate version doesn't include banning the two retardants from sofas and other household products. It also removes a provision barring the replacement of banned flame retardants with other likely toxic chemicals.

Proponents of giving the state Department of Ecology the authority to ban chemicals from use in children's and household products point out that Graco Inc., a manufacturer of car seats and other children's products, recently stopped using chlorinated Tris in favor of TBBPA, a derivative of Bisphenol A that the Department of Ecology lists as a chemical of high concern to children.

"This is truly an unfortunate example of the toxic treadmill," said Erika Schreder, science director for the Washington Toxics Coalition.

Speaking against the House bill were the Association of Washington Business and the Washington Retail Association, the latter of which also opposes the Senate version.

"There's risks that we take and there's exposures we take every day," said Brandon Houskeeper, a lobbyist for the Association of Washington Business. "We're not looking to expose people but we have to have a process that works for everybody, not just for one side of the equation."

Last year, a Chicago Tribune investigation found that an expert witness for the flame-retardant industry, Dr. David Heimbach, a burn expert from Seattle, had fabricated testimony before state lawmakers across the country. In that testimony, Heimbach told of treating infants suffering severe burns because of children's products not containing flame-retardant chemicals.

In the wake of the Tribune report, the companies that manufacture flame-retardant chemicals closed their public outreach arm, the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, and shifted their lobbying efforts to the American Chemistry Council.

Bryan Goodman, an American Chemistry Council spokesman, did not respond to written questions about the Washington state legislation provided to him Monday.

No one at the hearing spoke on behalf of the companies that manufacture the chemicals.


Follow AP Writer Jonathan Kaminsky at https://www.twitter.com/jekaminsky