In its quest to identify possible substitutes for a toxic flame retardant chemical known as decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft report on alternatives. This comprehensive assessment, developed with public participation under EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program, profiles the environmental and human health hazards on 30 alternatives to decaBDE, which will be phased out of production by December 2013.
DecaBDE is a common flame retardant used in electronics, vehicles, and building materials. It can cause adverse developmental effects, can persist in the environment and can bioaccumulate in people and animals. This technical assessment can help manufacturers identify alternatives to decaBDE. In addition, EPA will continue to work with manufacturers to investigate both chemical and non-chemical alternatives for flame retardants.
The alternatives to decaBDE characterized in the report are already on the market and will be used increasingly as decaBDE is phased out. The alternatives have differing hazard characteristics and are associated with trade-offs. For example, some alternatives that appear to have a relatively positive human health profile may be more persistent in the environment. Some alternatives appear to be less toxic than decaBDE. Preliminary data suggests that these flame retardants may have a lower potential for bioaccumulation in people and the environment. It is important to understand that these health and environmental profiles are largely based on computer-model generated estimates, and that the models are limited in their ability to predict concern. Laboratory testing and ongoing environmental monitoring is necessary to fully understand the potential for concern associated with these chemicals.
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