April 09, 2009

Protect firefighters with decaBDE ban

The Baltimore Sun's article "Looking out for the consumer" (April 5) suggested that it is unclear if the flame retardant chemical decabrominated diphenyl ether, also known as decaBDE, is harmful.

While decaBDE is a chemical flame retardant that was developed to save lives, its use certainly has some harmful and unintended consequences.

Like many other modern chemical substances, when decaBDE burns in a structure fire, it creates dense black smoke that reduces the visibility of firefighters.

More important, decaBDE also releases a highly corrosive and toxic gas known as hydrogen bromide. And many studies have shown that firefighters exposed to toxic gases while fighting fires have a significantly greater risk of contracting cancer, heart and lung disease.

There are plenty of alternative nontoxic flame retardants available today, and some manufacturers have voluntarily switched to using them.

Firefighters face risks every day, even without the added health threats posed by the use of unnecessary toxic chemicals in products we all use in our homes.

By passing the "Deca Bill," the Maryland Senate could help protect the health and safety of our firefighters and other first responders as they work every day to protect the lives of each of us.

James Clack, Baltimore

The writer is Baltimore's fire chief.

Lousy leadership marginalizes GOP

Paul West is suggesting that the luster may be coming off the Democratic Party and that the GOP could be making a comeback soon after the 2008 election ("Washington watches for the Democratic tide to start ebbing," April 4).

In doing so, Mr. West ignores the fact that polls continue to show that party affiliation strongly favors the Democrats as does could be said about the effectiveness of fundraising efforts.

Perhaps more important, young voters are continuing to move toward the Democratic Party, which should boost its electoral fortunes for years to come.

And one cannot brush off the lack of leadership within the Republican Party as Mr. West appears to do.

After eight years of Bush-Cheney at the helm, the GOP is frantically searching for a leader who can appeal to voters beyond the party's Southern and evangelical base.

So far, no one with such credentials has emerged.

Steve Charing, Clarksville

Energy deregulation a colossal failure

The writer of the letter "Re-regulation is the wrong answer" (April 5) is being disingenuous when he says there was "dissatisfaction with electric rates under the old system of deregulation."

The only real dissatisfaction was expressed by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. executives and corporations that stood to benefit from the huge financial transfer of wealth from the pockets of residential and small business ratepayers to themselves that deregulation would bring.

The competition and new power plants promised under deregulation have never materialized, and deregulation has created an unregulated monopoly in which we residential and small business ratepayers subsidize lower rates for corporations and enormous profits and bonuses for Constellation Energy and its executive class.

Gas and electricity are not a choice; they are a necessity and a human right.

The only way forward is for the state to exercise its power and re-regulate existing plants and then create a publicly owned and operated utility.

The 10-year experiment in deregulation has been a colossal failure, and it is past time for the legislature and the state's Public Service Commission to end it.

Maria Allwine, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Coalition for BGE Re-regulation.

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