Indiana University recently identified new or traditional flame retardant (FR) chemicals in fifteen of the eighteen children’s car seats they tested. The fact these articles are used in poorly ventilated environments by young children has again raised concerns about the use of FRs in consumer products.
FRs are a diverse group of chemicals that are used in a wide variety of contexts, including building materials, coatings and finishes, foam materials such as those manufactured with polyurethane (PU), textiles and plastics (polymers). They have been found to be persistent and bio-accumulative, and have been associated with reproductive harm, cancer, endocrine disruption and neurodevelopmental effects in humans and other animals. In addition, it has been reported that consumer products containing polybrominated dipheny ethers (PBDEs) unintentionally release highly toxic dioxins and furans when burnt.
FRs can broadly be divided into four chemical families:
Each has unique flame retardancy properties and mechanisms. They can therefore either be used own their own or in combination to provide better synergetic coverage.
The negative effects of FRs upon human health, especially on young children, and the environment have, however, led to restrictions in the United States and Canada. Stakeholders therefore need to understand how these regulations will affect their access to their markets.
Several jurisdictions in the United States regulate FRs. These include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, San Francisco (California), Vermont, Washington and Washington DC. Each jurisdiction has its own scope, which runs from blanket bans in specific products to specialised restrictions relating to halogenated or organophosphorus compounds (a common control).
Authorities often also single-out certain flame retardants as requiring reporting when they are used in children’s products. These states are:
- Maine: Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products (Title 38, Chapter 16-D, Priority Chemicals (PCs))
- Oregon: ORS § 431A.253 to § 431A.280 (High Priority Chemicals of Concern for Children’s Health, (HPCCCHs)
- Vermont: 18 V.S.A. Chapter 38A (Chemicals of High Concern to Children, CHCCs)
- Washington: RCW Chapter 70.240 (Children’s Safe Products Act (CSPA), Chemicals of High Concern to Children (CHCCs))
Stakeholders should be particularly aware of the regulations relating to California. Its unique Proposition 65 (Prop 65) law, officially known as the ‘Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986’, requires the state to maintain and publish a list of chemicals that are known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Businesses are required to provide a clear and reasonable warning, updated in August 2018, before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a chemical on the list.
The list currently contains around 860 substances. When a chemical is listed, businesses are given a period of twelve months to conform to the warning requirements. If exposure does not pose a risk of cancer or is significantly below levels observed to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm, then they are exempt.
The following organophosphorus and halogenated FRs are included on the Prop 65 list:
- Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP)
- Tris(2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate (TDBPP)
- Tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP)
- Polybrominated biphenlys (PBBs)
- Pentabromodiphenyl ether mixture (Penta-BDE, DE-71)
In Canada, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) regulates both TCEP and TDBPP:
- TCEP is prohibited in PU-foam containing products for children under the age of 3
- TDBPP is regulated in products made in whole or in part of textile fibers, intended for use as wearing apparel
It is therefore advisable for businesses operating in North America to check their products are compliant with the relevant regulations in their target markets.
SGS helps businesses deliver well-designed, functional, durable and safe products to their customers. Their global network of testing laboratories and comprehensive industry, regulatory and technical proficiency, allows them to accurately check a products’ compliance against relevant national and international standards for flame retardants in consumer products.
For more information, please contact:
Hing Wo Tsang, Ph.D
Global Information and Innovation Manager
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 95,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 2,400 offices and laboratories around the world.