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  • Allison Stalker

Safer Alternative for Toxic Flame Retardants

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced safer alternatives to toxic flame retardants. The existing flame retardants are used in consumer and commercial products, including building insulation and products that contain flexible polyurethane foam.

Existing retardant chemicals include hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE). These chemicals can create human health issues such as reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects. Additionally, HBCD and pentaBDE can negatively affect the environment because they are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to aquatic organisms.

Instead of HBCD, the EPA has identified butadiene styrene brominated copolymer as a safer alternative. HBCD is currently used in polystyrene building insulation. As for the pentaBDE, the EPA has identified oligomeric phosphonate polyol as a safer alternative. PentaBDE is used to meet product flammability standards for consumer products containing flexible polyurethane foam.

The alternatives were identified through the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Alternatives Assessment Program. According to the EPA, this program “helps industries choose safer chemicals and offers a basis for informed decision-making by providing a detailed comparison of the potential public health and environmental impacts of chemical alternatives”. They issued a final report on alternatives to HBCD and an updated draft report on alternatives to pentaBDE.

“EPA’s findings for safer alternatives is great news for consumers and industry,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We will now have safer alternatives for use in our products from furniture to car seats to building insulation”.

To view the final report for HBCD alternatives, click here.

To view the updated report for pentaBDE alternatives, click here.

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