Flame retardants are chemicals added to plastics (including rubbers) and used to prevent ignition or spread of flame by the product (material) when there is a heat source in the vicinity of the product.
Flame retardants are useful chemical additives but some of them are hazardous and therefore restricted or banned.
Products with flame retardants
Electronic parts or defects in electronic products may be the source of fire; therefore flame retardants are often used in electrical products. Flame retardants are also applied in critical building constructions that require fire resistance and in transport, heating, cabling or other applications that have to meet fire safety regulations.
Consumer product that may contain (restricted) flame retardants are furniture foams, carpets, curtains, home insulation, car seats and other automotive parts.
Regulated flame retardants
A group of commonly used flame retardants are brominated (BFR), they contain the chemical element bromine. Several brominated flame retardants are regulated in the POP regulation regarding substances that are harmful for the environment and persistent and the RoHS directive for electrical and electronic equipment.
Brominated flame retardants belong to the same class of chemicals as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), these chemicals and other flame retardants are regulated in chemical legislation, are under discussion, such as:
- Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD or HBCDD);
- Organohalogen (or halogenated) flame retardants (OFR);
- Organophosphorous flame retardants (OPFR);
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB);
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE);
- Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCP);
- Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA).
Flame retardants add an important risk reduction property to products, they are useful to deal with risks of fire.
But, as is often the case, chemicals may have other unwanted and hazardous characteristics as well. Be sure to choose the right flame retardants for your product and involve your suppliers.
For the chemical risk assessment of materials this is essential information from your supply chain.