House looking to pass a bill banning some flame retardants

It's a third try, but the measure now has bipartisan support in the state House of Representatives.
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Rep. Kevin Van De Wege

It's a third try, but the measure now has bipartisan support in the state House of Representatives.

A bill to ban two flame retardants from children's products and upholstered furniture is taking its third trip through the Washington Legislature.

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, introduced the bipartisan bill, which went to a House Environment Committee public hearing Monday.

The bill would effectively prohibit the manufacture, sale and distribution of upholstered furniture and children's products such as baby carriers and changing pads that contain the flame retardant chemicals commonly known as TCEP and TDCPP, which are suspected of causing cancer. The bill also gives the Washington Department of Ecology the authority to ban similar flame retardant chemicals with similar concerns beginning on July 1, 2016. The only allowance for similar chemicals would be if a manufacturer could show there is no technically feasible alternative to them.

Supporters of the bill say normal wear-and-tear of items treated with TCEP and TDCPP can cause dust-like particles to flake off, creating risks of cancers and hormonal troubles. That cancer risk may increase when the flame retardants are on fire, giving off toxic fumes. "When it burns, it releases these chemicals quickly," Van De Wege said.

Brandon Houskeeper, representing the Association of Washington Business, was the sole person to testify against Van De Wege's bill, arguing it gives too much regulatory authority to the state Ecology Department.

Eleven people testified for the bill, including representatives from the state health and ecology departments, the Washington Toxics Coalition, the Washington State Nurses Association and the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters. They pointed to the tiny particles floating off the retardants under normal conditions and the fumes produced when fires hits the retardants.

"This product has no business in fire safety for children," Vytenis Babrauskas, a fire science consultant based in Issaquah. He said the toxic natures of TCEP and TDCPP have been known since the 1970s.

Rachel Koller, a mother from Seattle, said: "It's very sobering as a parent to find out what poisons are in my couch."

Van De Wege introduced the same bill in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, the Democrat-dominated House passed it 53-44, but the Republican-controlled Senate removed most of the bills prohibitions of dangerous chemicals to pass the amended legislation 30-18. The House and Senate could not reach a compromise over the changes.

In 2014, the House passed the same bill 72-25. Then the Senate Environment, Energy & Telecommunications Committee again removed most of the provisions. But that amended bill did not reach a full Senate floor vote in the short 2014 session.

Van De Wege's 2015 version has 23 cosponsors, including three solid conservatives – Reps. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley. and David Taylor, R-Moxee. That reflects significant Republican support for the House measure during last year's session, and could be a sign of a growing potential for final passage this year.

For exclusive coverage of the state government, check out Crosscut's Under the Dome page.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8