Toxic debate

Published: Tuesday 28 February 2006

The Danish government, a European Union (eu) member, will take the European Commission (ec) to court for annulling a ban on a brominated flame-retardant -- deca-bromodiphenyl ether (deca- bde) -- believed to cause birth defects and cancer.

Brominated flame-retardants are used to prevent fires in electronic devices such as televisions and computers. In 2001, the European Parliament had approved an ec proposal to ban penta- bde. But it also extended the ban to cover octa- bde and deca- bde, against ec's advice and opposition from the industries. The ban on deca- bde was to come into force from July 1, 2006, unless the chemical was proved benign.

In March 2005, the ec proposed that the ban imposed on deca- bde under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive of the eu be lifted. It cited an eu risk assessment report, which claimed there was no risk to human health from the flame-retardant.

But the Danish government has complained that though safer alternatives to deca-bde exist, ec has not bothered to consider them .

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