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09 May 2000

Brominated flame retardants - Response to FoE UK statement


Flame retardants have saved 1860 lives in the UK alone since furniture flammability standards were introduced in 1988. The major flame retardants in application in plastics and backcoatings for textiles are brominated. Brominated flame retardants have very different properties and most are of a low toxicity and do not bioaccumulate.

The Swedish and Danish governments are indeed considering the possibility of phasing-out the use of PBDEs and PBB flame retardants. Worldwide production of the one remaining PBB flame retardant will cease during 2000. Each of the three PBDE flame retardants – decaBDE, octaBDE and pentaBDE – has recently been the subject of the most comprehensive risk assessments drafted the relevant EU competent authorities. PentaBDE is likely to be the subject of an EU-wide phase-out proposal later this year. It is the constituents of pentaBDE which have been found in the human food chain in Swedish studies. By contrast, the risk assessments on decaBDE and octaBDE have not shown any need for restrictions. These conclusions are provisional pending one final set of tests, due for completion this year. The occurrence of decaBDE in workers’ blood in an electronics dismantling facility can easily be prevented by standard industrial worker safety practices which the brominated flame retardant industry itself fully applies.