Protecting the environment is an essential element of sustainable development
EFRA and all its member companies are totally committed to the guiding principles of Responsible Care® in flame retardant production, use, and through to end of life (recycling of consumer products containing flame retardants) and each year, this commitment to environmental performance has grown.
This involves pro-active health and safety management of chemicals, beyond regulatory obligations (see e.g. ICCA-HPV VECAP), including strict adherence to safety at work laws.
Regular monitoring takes place of work areas to ensure the health and safety of employees in the flame retardants industry’s manufacturing and processing plants.
Like most chemicals, flame retardants undergo rigorous testing before reaching the EU market and many have been through risk assessment at national and/or EU level.
They are covered by various pieces of legislation such the WEEE and RoHS and REACH Directives which ensure that all flame retardants are safely produced and used from both a human and environmental health perspective.
Studies to date indicate that-
- modern flame retardants, when appropriately applied, can be used in consumer products without significant risk to human health or the environment
- flame retardants certainly do offer major fire safety benefits, saving lives and property
- today’s flame retardants are compatible with environmental end-of-life management of treated products and therefore conform to EU Directive 2002/96, on the impact on the environment of electrical and electronic equipment waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
- and they conform to other end-of-life legislation including Integrated Product Policy, (IPPC)
(see Regulatory Centre (Sitemap) for regulatory information details)
Groups of producers of any one flame retardant collaborate within EFRA to share the burden of work and costs of environmental impact studies and to try to ensure, where possible, that EFRA producers offer consistent and up-to-date information on health and environment issues.
Status of EU Risk Assessments of different flame retardants
EFRA and its members continuously strive to better understand environmental and human health effects and to ensure the safety of its products and processes through Responsible Care. It is committed to the ongoing EU risk assessments under discussion. The many discussion documents are available for viewing at :
Already most of the important products have already been registered under REACH in 2010 and their conditions of safe use has been established.
Independent studies confirm the safety of flame retardants
The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), April 2000 « Toxicological risks of selected flame-retardant chemicals » http://www4.nationalacademies.org/news.nsf/isbn/0309070473?OpenDocument
A selection of sixteen chemicals amongst the most widely used as flame retardants for upholstered furniture was studied to assess the possible risk to human health from their use. For 8 of the chemicals, the study concluded “these chemicals were found to be safe even under the worst-case exposure assumptions.” For the 8 other chemicals, no conclusion was reached pending further information and studies.
UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) study, 1999 University of Surrey: “Risks and benefits in the use of flame retardants in consumer products”. A report for the UK De-partment of Trade and Industry, January 1999, DTI References URN 98/1026 http://www.dti.gov.uk/homesafetynetwork/bs_rfret.htm
The report assesses the risks posed by flame retardants for furniture and their implications for the smoke and gases released in case of fire: “The major hazards of most fires arise from the existence of the fire and not the materials burned and there is no evidence that flame retardants contribute to the direct human health risks arising from toxic gas effects … Information available suggests that the benefits of many flame retardants in reducing the risk from fire outweigh the risks to human health … Many flame retardants do not pose a significant threat to human health and the environment”
US Consumer Product Safety Commission assessment, 2004 US CPSC October 25th 2004 « Briefing package – Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Flammability (Open Flame) of Mattresses and Foundations » http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia05/brief/mattressespt3.pdf page 132
Toxicity review of five chemicals used to achieve mattress fire safety. Of these, three were considered to offer a « low potential risk of adverse chronic health effects ». The other two chemical classes looked at were considered to offer a « moderate » risk largely because of the CPSC considered that more exposure data was necessary before defini-tive conclusions could be drawn.
Study for the European Commission 1992, Binetti et al. EU Study Contract n° ETD/91/88-5300/MI/44, Binetti et al., final report December 1992 ”Toxicity and ecotoxicity of Flame retardants used in the industry of upholstered furniture and related articles” - Luigi Binetti, Consultant. Roberto Binetti, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, http://www.iss.it
The expert consultants examined different types of flame retardant and different application modes (22 chemicals sub-jected to detailed analysis). The report concludes that these 22 products do not pose risks for consumer health, through their use, nor risks for the environment (including through end of life product disposal).
Fraunhofer Institute, Braunschweig, Germany, 2003 “Flame retardants in the indoor environment. Part V: Measurement and exposure evaluation of organophosphate esters from automobile interiors” M. Wensing, J. Pardemann, W. Schwampe, Fraunhofer Institut für Holzforschung, Braun-schweig, and TÜV Nord Umweltschutz, Hamburg, Germany. Healthy Buildings 2003 Conference http://hb2003.nus.edu.sg/
Eight phosphorus based flame retardants widely used to ensure fire safety in automobile interiors were studied. The results show that the recommended maximum exposure levels were not reached in automobile interiors (RWI = security exposure levels to avoid any health risk) even under extreme experimental conditions. During a normal use simulation using a 9 month old car, none of the flame retardants even reached the detection level in the car interior.
Swiss Federal Office for Public Health (BAG) 2002 « Phosphorbasierte Flammschutzmittel in der Innenraumluft – Schlussbericht » = «Phosphorus-based flame retardants in indoor air» BAG_ report.pdf Concentrations of 10 phosphorus based flame retardants were analysed in indoor air. For all products, the risk index calculated was considerably <1 (no risk). The Swiss Federal Health Office concludes that “the risks are very low and that no additional measures have to be taken to minimise these risks”.