BSEF fundamentally refuses the proposed Washington State ban of Organohalogen Flame retardants

Press Statement, 15 February 2022

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature enacted the Pollution Prevention for Healthy People and Puget Sound Act (Chapter 70A.350 RCW). The Act directs the Department of Ecology (DOE) to implement a program to reduce priority chemicals in consumer products. The Department’s regulatory program to implement the 2019 law is called “Safer Products for Washington.”

The proposal by Ecology to restrict all organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) in a broad range of electronic and electrical equipment[1] is unjust and unwarranted. This overly broad recommendation will have a significant detrimental impact on overall product safety, performance, sustainability and innovation.  The proposed regulation may be the broadest of its kind in the world and would have hugely negative implications for a huge range of products.

BSEF, The International Bromine Council, do not agree with the overall Washington State approach. Michael Hack, BSEF Secretary General, sent a letter to the Washington State Department of Ecology stating that “BSEF and its members are offering a transparent and open contribution of our views on the initiative. We are convinced that our products effectively address flammability hazards. And we believe that our products should be judged on scientific grounds, on risk related to exposure, and being fairly treated regarding their benefits.”


The Unique properties of Brominated Flame Retardants 

With an average of over 20 electronic and electrical appliances in homes, it is essential that the plastic components do not pose a fire risk for homes or consumers during their use, particularly given that electrical devices routinely carry electric currents and thus generate heat as a by-product. Organohalogen flame retardants, including Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs), help prevent ignition and slow fires, thereby protecting property and saving lives.

Due to its unique chemical interaction with the combustion process, bromine is an extremely efficient element, meaning that a relatively small amount is needed to achieve fire resistance.

Manufacturers include specific flame retardants in their products based on the product’s attributes, properties, usage, and potential ignition threats. In comparison, with other flame retardant chemistries organohalogen flame retardants have a good technical compatibility with a wide range of materials. They are stable during the plastic processing and are efficient at low concentrations. That is why organohalogen flame retardants in many instances are the preferred choice for electronic casings. In some polymer systems BFRs are possibly the only commercially available solution.


Regulating entire classes of chemicals

The DOE draft report takes an overly broad approach in its characterization of, and recommendations for organohalogen flame retardants. It is not scientifically accurate or appropriate to make broad conclusions or impose a one-size-fits-all approach for all flame retardants or even sub-classes of flame retardants. Not all flame retardants are the same. They are a diverse set of chemicals that vary in property and molecular structure.

In the EU, the different Brominated flame retardants follow a well-established and appropriate legislative framework restricting the use of chemicals in articles, such as REACH and the Directive on the restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS) in electrical and electronic equipment. Only a very few BFRs are restricted under REACH. Newer BFRs have very different properties from these substances and were designed to be safer and more sustainable solutions.


BFRs containing plastics from EEE are ready for circularity

In the EU, Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/2021 lay down Ecodesign requirements for electronic displays, and unjustly banned the use of halogenated flame retardants in the enclosure and stand of electronic displays as of 1 March 2021. The main rationale for including a ban on the use of HFRs in enclosures and stands of electronic displays was not related to chemical safety but that they hinder recycling of WEEE plastics.

However, the recent report “the impact of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) on WEEE plastics conducted by the leading consultancy SOFIES, concludes that “The presence of BFRs in WEEE plastics does not reduce recycling yields more than other FRs as FR-containing plastics, as well as plastics containing other additives in significant loads (e.g., fillers), are sorted out during the conventional density-based recycling process.” 


To conclude, BSEF believes that DOE should take into consideration that BFRs in electrical and electronic products contribute to their overall safety. This is not only a contribution to saving lives, but also to saving resources throughout the use-phase of products by ensuring their durability. Imprudent policy proposals like the “Safer Products for Washington” overlook important scientific aspects and do not ensure the safety of consumers.

DOE has collected comments from a broad range of stakeholders that show their concerns and respond in opposition to the regulatory programme. The Washington State intends to offer a final report to the legislature by the end of June 2022


About BSEF

BSEF – The International Bromine Council, is the global representative body for bromine producers and producers of bromine technologies. Originally founded in 1997, BSEF works to foster knowledge on the societal benefits of bromine and its applications. The members of BSEF are Albemarle Corporation, ICL Industrial Products, Lanxess and Tosoh

[1] – including TVs, laptops, mobile phones, kitchen appliances, washing machines, irons, coffee makers, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, appliances, power tools, and various other electronic and electrical devices including those intended for industrial applications