Modern homes and public spaces contain highly flammable materials. While the increased use of plastics, composites, foams and synthetic fibre-based fillings has transformed our spaces into practical, comfortable and more energy efficient living, it has brought with it an increased risk of fire as many of these polymers can be highly flammable. Upholstered furniture, carpets, wall coverings and drapery can easily ignite or burn rapidly if not adequately protected and compliant with high fire safety standards.
The term “flame retardant” describes a function of chemicals. There are more than 200 different types of flame-retardants, which producers classify according to the major chemical constituent elements.
The elements determine their chemical reaction with fire and therefore their suitability in different applications.
The substances used on flame retardants include phosphorous, bromine, nitrogen, metal hydroxides and oxides as well as chlorine.
Though these different “families” are widely used to classify flame-retardants in a simple way, there is a great deal of overlap between them.
Certain compounds show strong synergy across the families and are used in combinations, such as those containing chlorine and phosphorous or nitrogen and phosphorous.
As HBCD is being phased out globally, manufacturers of thermal insulation foams now have a more sustainable alternative flame retardant.
As an alternative to HBCD an innovative brominated polymeric flame retardant (FR) has been developed to provide effective flame retardant performance in polystyrene foams such as Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Extruded Polystyrene (XPS).
These foams, commonly used in building and construction, ensure that homes, offices and public buildings are energy efficient and comfortable, whilst meeting fire safety requirements.
This flame retardant exhibits a superior environmental profile to that of HBCD – being stable, with a high molecular weight. It is also classified as a nonhazardous polymer and as a Polymer of Low Concern(PLC) with officially recognised environment, health & safety characteristics.
Polymeric flame retardants, generally speaking, are inherently sustainable substances. Their high molecular weight makes them unlikely to penetrate through the cell membranes of living tissues. They are therefore not likely to be bioavailable and to bioaccumulate in the food chain.
A new generation of brominated flame retardants: Butadiene Styrene Co-polymer.
Reduced likehood of ignition
Lower % by mass of flame retardant
Reduced heat release
Slower fire growth
Measures which prolong escape time, such as introducing fire safe furniture, ensure that fewer people are killed or injured in fires. Flame retardants are an effective element to protect people from fires. They can significantly delay ignition in the early stages of a fire when it can still be extinguished, or occupants of a building can escape.
BFRs make sure that innovative materials used in modern transport can be used safely and meet strict international fire safety standards.
Airplanes carry a large amount of fuel and the cabin contains plastics, polymers and composites. In ground accidents, flame retardants help ensure passengers can get out of the damaged airplane safe. Flame retardants were commended for saving lives after the 2013 Asiana Airline crash in San Francisco, as well as after the 2005 crash of a passenger jet in Toronto, in which all 309 people aboard survived. Brominated are also used in trains where curtains, seat covers and fillings, as well as vertical and horizontal panelling all need to be fire safe. Finally, materials used in cars are subject to a huge amount of daily thermal stress, which makes their use practically inconceivable without the application of flame retardants.
That only a small amount of bromine is enough to ensure fire safety?
That bromine is a crucial element used to prevent fire in homes and transport?
1.  European Environment Agency, Earnings, jobs and innovation: the role of recycling in a green economy (EEA Report No 8/2011) and http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/tools/localgov/benefits/ (viewed August 2012)
 Boerrigter, H., “Implementation of thermal processes for feedstock recycling of bromine and antimony, with energy recovery, from plastics waste of electrical and electronic Equipment, Phase 1″, Netherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN), July 2000.
 Umicore study: 2006 Using Plastic-Metal Rich Mixed Weee Materials As Feedstock /Fuelsubstitute For A Metals Smelter
 TBBPA’s EU Risk Assessment and Mark, F.E., (Dow Europe), Lehner, T.,Plastic Recovery from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment in Non-Ferrous Metal Processes 2000.
 Implementation of thermal processes for feedstock recycling of bromine and antimony, with energy recovery, from plastics waste of electrical and electronic Equipment, Phase 1″ Dr H. Boerrigter, ECN, July 2000
Takashi Yamawaki, The gasification recycling technology of plastics WEEE containing brominated flame retardants, 2003
 E&HS aspects on metal recovery from electronic scrap”. Sweden, Metal and Energy Recovery Conference. Lehner T., Boliden (2003).
 Borgnes and Rikheim, Emission measurement during incineration of waste containing Bromine, Kjelforenigne Norsk Energi, 2005
2. Imai T., S. Hamm, K.P. Rothenbacher, Techno Polymer Co., Ltd “Comparison of the recyclability of flame-retarded plastics”; Environ Sci Technol. Feb 1;37(3):652-6;., 100 Kawajiri-cho, Yokkaichi, Mie 510-0871, Japan, 2003