PORTLAND (AP) – Maine lawmakers may have banned some toxic flame retardants from the state earlier this year, but a new study shows dust samples taken from State House computers contain the banned chemicals.

Dust from computers at the Children’s Museum of Maine also showed the presence of the flame retardants that have been linked to reproductive and neurological disorders.

Maine lawmakers this year passed a bill banning the use of two kinds of flame retardants in consumer products by 2006, and a third will be banned in 2008 if safer alternatives are available by then.

The survey, released Thursday by Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Computer TakeBack Campaign and Clean Production Action, is among the first to identify brominated flame retardants on the surfaces of common devices in homes and offices.

“This will be a great surprise to everyone who uses a computer,” said Ted Smith, director of the Toxics Coalition. “The chemical industry is subjecting us all to what amounts to chemical trespass by putting these substances into use in commerce. They continue to use their chemicals in ways that are affecting humans and other species.”

Researchers collected samples of dust from dozens of computers in eight states. They tested for three types of brominated flame retardants suspected to be hazardous, and found four different flame retardants in every sample.

Public health advocates said the study’s results illustrate the prevalence of flame retardants in today’s high-tech society.

“The value of this effort is that it demonstrates that these chemicals are in fact coming out of these computers, which is something which the manufacturers of these chemicals have denied for years,” said Steven Gurney, science and policy director at the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland.

The electronics industry has been reducing or eliminating some brominated flame retardants since the late 1990s, when European countries began prohibiting the sale of products that contain the chemicals.

In testimony before the Maine Legislature earlier this year, manufacturers of flame retardants said the chemicals save thousands of lives every year, and numerous studies have found that the most widely used retardant is safe for both people and the environment.

AP-ES-06-04-04 0220EDT

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