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Flame retardant industry battles Oregon over ban

Nick Saltmarsh/FlickrPlastic pallets may become a thing of the past in Oregon.

Industry is sparring with the state of Oregon over a ban that could keep food distributors from transporting foods on plastic pallets.

In June 2009 the Oregon Legislature wrote a law that restricts the use of deca-BDE, a flame retardant chemical used in furniture, electronics and plastics.

The chemical has been linked to damaged neurological development in children and cancer.

The law was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1 of this year, but the Oregon Health Authority is in the middle of a 60-day comment period on how it will be enforced.

Deca-BDE is found in plastic food-shipping pallets.

The problem, say health officials and environmentalists, is deca-BDE can seep into food. So, if you’re carrying lettuce on a plastic pallet, it is possible for the chemical to migrate into it.

Indeed, a study in December showed the chemical in butter. The scientists who performed that analysis believed the chemical seeped in from the butter’s wrapper.

The Oregon law specifically targets plastic pallets as a product that might be banned: “Plastic shipping pallets would be subject to the ban and therefore cannot contain one-tenth of one percent (0.10 percent) of the hazardous substances listed.”

The makers of plastic pallets are furious.

In a statement, iGPS, a plastic pallet manufacturer said:

“While the attempt to single out plastic shipping pallets now – years after the statute was enacted – is questionable, we are confident that both the underlying statute and any follow-on rule making will not affect iGPS operations. The Oregon Health Authority plans to engage in a formal rule making procedure which will allow all affected parties to be heard, and iGPS will be involved in that process.”

The plastic pallet manufacturer would like an exemption from the law.

But Oregon Sen. Jackie Dingfelder told Greenwire that such an exception would go against the spirit of the law.

“The only thing that was exempted from the rule was automobiles and airplanes,” she told Greenwire. “Nothing else is exempted, that’s the way the law works.”

Other manufacturers, however, may benefit from the law.

CHEP is the largest rental wood and plastic pallet provider in the world. The company removed deca-BDE from its products more than decade ago.

A company spokesman told Greenwire that CHEP’s decision to discontinue using the chemical was supported by states like Oregon that are moving to ban the flame retardant.

Maine, Maryland, Vermont and Washington have passed legislation that would limit the chemical. Oregon’s law is the first to go into effect.


Filed under: Environment, Daily Report


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