Sweden is likely to introduce a national ban on the sale and use of the brominated flame retardants PBDE (polybrominated dephenylether and PBB (polybrominated biphenyl), following a report issued today by the National Chemicals Inspectorate (KemI). The report notes that levels of the substances in human breast milk have doubled since 1992. "A major worry," it adds, is a high level of uncertainty over the scale of usage. In a survey of 200 companies, only about a third replied, it says, "and many did not know if their products contained flame retardants or not". Although neither substance was manufactured in Sweden, plastic components treated with the retardants manufactured abroad (notably in south-east Asia) are imported in a wide range of products including television sets, computers and cables. Attempts at voluntary restrictions since 1990 have been only partially successful. Reacting to the report today, Swedish environment minister Kjell Larsson said it was "wholly unacceptable that employees working with brominated flame retardants have been shown to have 50 times higher blood levels than normal of these dangerous substances". "We shall...now consider implementing a national ban against the sale of all goods treated with the most harmful of these substances," he continued. "Other flame retardants will be dealt with in our new chemicals strategy". The retardants belong to a class of halogenated organic pollutants which are persistent and bioaccumulative and are thought likely to cause damage in humans and animals. (ENDS Daily 17 August 1998).
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