"Toxic Roulette" -- EPA Suppressed Science at Odds With Chemical Sales

"Firemaster 550, touted as safe, is the latest in a long line of flame retardants allowed onto the market without thorough study of health risks"

"By the early 2000s, the flame retardant known as penta had become a villain.

Packed by the pound into couches and other furniture, the chemical was turning up in the blood of babies and in breast milk around the world. The European Union voted to ban penta after researchers linked it to developmental and neurological problems in children, and manufacturers pulled it from the market.

But the only U.S. company that made penta soon introduced a replacement, hailing it as the beginning of an eco-friendly era for flame retardants.

The new product even had a heroic name: Firemaster 550.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose mission is to safeguard America's health and environment, praised the withdrawal of penta as a 'responsible action' and promised that the new flame retardant had none of the problems of the old one. Unlike penta, Firemaster 550 would neither stick around in the environment nor build up in people and wildlife, a top EPA official declared in a 2003 news release.

Not everyone at the EPA believed that rosy public assessment. Documents obtained by the Tribune show that scientists within the agency were deeply skeptical about the safety of Firemaster 550, predicting that its chemical ingredients would escape into the environment and break down into byproducts that would pose lasting health hazards."

Michael Hawthorne reports for the Chicago Tribune May 10, 2012, in an installment of the Tribune's multipart investigative Tribune Watchdog series, "Playing With Fire."

SEE ALSO:

Tribune Watchdog "Playing With Fire" Series Portal

"SEJ Urges EPA To Make Science More Open to News Media" (SEJ WatchDog)
 

Source: Chicago Tribune, 05/11/2012