- Flame Retardants
Since 2007, the law RCW 70.76 restricts the manufacture, sale and distribution of products containing PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in the State of Washington, USA. The prohibition became effective for all products containing Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE, and for mattresses containing Deca-BDE in January 2008. At the time the law was passed, safer alternatives for Deca-BDE had not been identified for other products, specifically, residential upholstered furniture, and enclosures used for televisions and computers. The law lays out a process for identifying the availability of safer, technically feasible alternatives to Deca-BDE that meet fire safety standards for these applications. When safer alternatives are identified, Deca-BDE will be prohibited two years from the date of identification. These alternatives were found and presented in a report published at the end of 2008. Thus, the restrictions on the use of Deca-BDE will take effect on January 1, 2011.
The Washington State Departments of Ecology and Health identified two possible phosphate-based flame retardants: resorcinol bis diphenyl phosphate (RDP) and triphenyl phosphate (TPP), as technically feasible alternatives to Deca-BDE for use in TV-sets, and computers. TPP was eliminated due to concerns related to its aquatic toxicity.
Beginning of 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission CPSC published a proposed flammability standard for residential upholstered furniture. Here, fire safety in upholstered furniture can be achieved through the use of compliant cover materials (fabrics) or internal barrier layers. The proposed standard does not rely on the addition of flame retardants for compliance although they could be used. Based on furniture design options that are already available, the agencies concluded that the safer, technically feasible alternative to Deca-BDE in residential furniture is design options without the use of flame retardants.
The proposals made by the Washington State Departments for TV-sets and computers show that not only Deca-BDE is banned, but no halogenated flame retardants at all are foreseen for use in the future. The UL94 V1 flammability requirement for these devices will also initiate a change in polymers from high impact polystyrene (V1 only met by brominated flame retardants) to engineering plastics blends such as PC/ABS (V1 met by RDP and other phosphorous compounds).
The CPSC proposal to use covers or internal barrier layers to meet fire safety requirements for upholstered furniture with the argument that they are more environmentally friendly than "chemical" flame retardants implies that the whole group of these very different compounds is bad for the environment. This approach is unscientific and not helpful for the general promotion of fire safety.
Report available from Washington State Department of Ecology at