Hazardous Flame Retardants
“Deca-BDE is more of a problem than perhaps realized and we do have a number of arguments now to ban it. We know it is accumulating in birds of prey and seeing it in mother’s milk is a bad observation.”
— Dr. Ake Bergman, Stockholm University chemist who conducted the first studies on brominated flame retardants uptake in the human body, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, August ;24, 2003.
For the past decade, governments, businesses and independent organizations have documented the growing presence of PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) as global contaminants in humans and the environment. All the early warning signs that were in place for PCBs, dioxins and lead, are in place for PBDEs, now known as the “PCBs of the 21st century.”
PBDEs are brominated flame retardant chemicals used in electronic products, textiles, polyurethane foam and other consumer goods. Governments, scientists, public interest organizations, and many businesses are working globally to find alternatives by implementing legislative bans, investing in safer materials and chemicals and tracking the growing presence of these chemicals in our blood, breast milk and food. CPA investigated the comparative safety of alternatives to a PBDE flame retardant commonly found in TV casings. The result of a GreenScreen™ assessment demonstrates that a ‘safer’ alternative is available on the market.
In the USA the states of Washington and Maine have passed legislation to ban all PBDEs and in Canada these chemicals have been deemed ‘toxic’. The European Union has witnessed a tug of war over the use of Deca-BDE: the Commission first banned its use under the RoHS Directive then reversed its decision after much lobbying from the bromine industry coupled with highly controversial outcomes of two risk assessments. The ban has been re-instated.
Most major market leaders in the electronic sector are replacing the entire class of brominated flame retardants with alternatives that are less likely to pose human health and environmental risks. Read more