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New Plans to Assess Flame Retardants Unveiled

Aug 2015

ICL Industrial Products (ICL-IP), the world’s largest bromine producer, announced a framework to assess the potential long-term environmental and health effects of flame retardants.

“The whole industry needs to focus on the real use of flame retardants,” said Avi Ben-Zvi, ICL-IP's business manager of engineering flame retardants and manager of new product development, at Chinaplas 2015 in Guangzhou.

The Systematic Assessment of Flame Retardant (SAFR) framework considers real-world use and frequency of human contact with plastics over the lifecycle of a product. By accelerating the aging process in a laboratory, SAFR takes into account such processes as “blooming” (the tendency of a chemical to rise to the surface of a plastic).

Flame retardants assessed under SAFR will be judged as either recommended, acceptable or not recommended, depending on the application. A flame retardant also can be judged an unacceptable hazard.

Ben-Zvi described the process as “a more scientific approach” to judging the safety of flame retardants.

Setting the Bar for the Industry

The framework’s goal is to provide clear information up and down the supply chain to compounders, manufacturers and customers, said Ilan Elkan, ICL-IP’s vice president of sustainability and advocacy.

ICL-IP is using SAFR to assess its large portfolio of brominated, phosphorus and inorganic flame retardants. Earlier this month, ICL-IP announced it would shut down a production line that produces its FR-1210 (DECA) flame retardant, in part because of its SAFR ranking. Many Chinese companies, however, continue to manufacture the chemical.

The company has released the framework to rival flame retardant producers and users. It plans to promote SAFR as a standard that can be adopted by testing services such as UL

The safety of fire retardants has become a hot-button issue in recent years, with California and other states moving to ban some fire retardants.