Deca-BDE Controversy in Europe

In 2003, the European Union passed into law the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, which eliminates the use of certain toxic chemicals in electronics, including deca-BDE (bromodiphenyl ether), beginning in July 2006. Under the RoHS Directive, the European Commission has the authority to issue an exemption for four years if elimination is “technically or scientifically impracticable” or if the environmental health impacts of alternatives outweigh the impacts of deca-BDE. Yet the Commission has proven neither of these facts and this was the basis of legal challenges by both the European Parliament and Denmark in January 2006. In fact, research by the Danish and German governments, the IFP Research group in Sweden, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the U.S., have all shown that alternatives are widely available to deca-BDE. Many electronics firms have already eliminated or committed to eliminating deca-BDE, including Philips, Electrolux, Sony, Dell, Intel, Sharp, Apple and Hewlett Packard. On June 21, 2006 the European Commission effectively re-instated the ban on Deca-BDE due to the presence of Nona-BDE (a banned PBDE) in its commercial mixture. (See Letter). Meanwhile evidence continues to mount that Deca-BDE breaks down into other prohibited PBDEs thus increasing the global exposure to these hazardous flame retardant chemicals. Finally on April 1st, 2008 the European Court ruled that Deca-BDE must be banned in all electronic products.  This effectively prohibits this class of brominated flame retardants in electrical and electronic equipment imported or manufactured within the European Union.

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