But what are manufacturers offering instead of decaBDE and HBCD, also on the phase out pathway due to its restriction by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants? Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL are the leading producers of BFRs globally, accounting for roughly 75% of BFR production. Not surprisingly these manufacturers are turning in part to new brominated compounds as solutions to the old the BFRs.
A look at the offerings from FR manufacturers shows several dozen possible choices. The product descriptions are clear and technical data and material safety data sheets (MSDSs) are available, but many of these products have proprietary chemical formulas and a great many have very little, if any, toxicological data available. Examples of BFR alternatives include:
- Chemtura’s Emerald Innovation products being marketed as alternatives to HBCD for use in polystyrene foam insulation and Firemaster line, which is a combination of unspecified brominated and phosphorous-based chemicals.
- Albemarle and ICL also offer a broad range of BFR-based chemistries for many applications including insulation and upholstery foams, hard plastics, and textiles.
Yet by and large the new BFRs lack toxicity data. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) examined 27 new and/or emerging BFRs in 2012 and found that: “information on the toxicity of the various BFRs considered in this opinion was in general scarce. For most of the 12 BFRs (six emerging and six novel BFRs) no toxicity data could be identified at all [emphasis added]. For the remaining compounds the available information was not sufficient to perform a hazard characterization.”
The BFR manufacturers are churning out new novel compounds to replace the widely recognized toxic FRs without providing the toxicity data needed to understand whether these alternatives are safer or not. In addition, BFRs are of general concern due to the associated brominated dioxins and furans that form during manufacturing, fires, and end-of-life incineration or burning.