Whack-a-chemical

Whack-a-chemical image

Government policies drive, somewhat ironically, both the use and restriction of FRs. International, regional, national, state, and local fire safety regulations and flammability standards drive demand for FRs. At the same time the trend in government regulations is increasing restrictions on the use of toxic FRs.

Want to play “whack-a-chemical”? Ban one chemical and another equally toxic one pops up? FRs exemplify the problem of regulating on a chemical-by-chemical basis as manufacturers replace one generation of known toxic FRs with another generation of lesser known chemistries. Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in plastic electronic enclosures exemplify the “whack-a-chemical” approach. In the 1970s, PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls) were the FR of choice in electronic products. PBBs were phased out and replaced with PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), particularly decaBDE, which dominated electronic enclosures until the 2000s. With RoHS restricting PBDEs in the 2000s, manufacturers of plastic electronic enclosures are now using a variety of FRs, some of which are now being restricted including HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane).

Snapshot of Flame Retardant Restrictions

Regulation of Flame Retardants

Regulatory Action

BFRs

CFRs

Global elimination: no longer manufactured or used 

- PBBs
- PBDEs except decaBDE

- Pentachlorobenzene

European phase-out

- HBCD (2015)

- TCEP (2015)

European, U.S. (national), and/or U.S. (states): restriction of some uses

- decaBDE (electronics, shipping pallets, mattresses, upholstered furniture)

- TCEP and TDCPP in children's products and/or furniture (Maryland, New York, & Vermont)

No restrictions

TBBPA

 

Abbreviations:
- BFRs: brominated flame retardants
- CFRs: chlorinated flame retardants
- decaBDE: decabromodiphenyl ether
- HBCD: hexabromocyclododecane
- PBB: polybrominated biphenyl
- PBDE: polybrominated diphenyl ether
- TBBPA: tetrabromobisphenol A
- TCEP: tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate
- TDCPP: tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate

 

Restriction Details

PBBs and all the PBDEs with the exception of decaBDE are no longer manufactured and used globally (or so it seems).

The international Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) seeks to eliminate the production and use of the worst in class FRs: pentachlorobenzene, the PBDEs (tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta-, and octa-BDE), and HBCD as of November 2014. Another FR under review by the POPS Review Committee is decaBDE. Note that the U.S. Government has not ratified the Stockholm Convention.

In Europe: 

In the U.S., the combination of manufacturers voluntarily agreeing to cease production and import and the EPA’s Significant New Use Rule in 2006 ended the production and import of penta- and octa-BDE. California, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington all banned various uses of penta- and octa-BDE. A subset of these states—Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington—also banned various uses of decaBDE including in electronics, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and shipping pallets.

In the 1970s, U.S. manufacturers voluntarily withdrew the chlorinated flame retardant (CFR), chlorinated tris (TDCPP), from children’s pajamas due its mutagenic properties. More recently, Maryland, New York, and Vermont restricted TCEP and TDCPP in children’s products and/or furniture.

See SaferStates and Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse for a summary of all state-based FR legislation.