BSEF response to innaccurate Bloomberg article on Bromine

BSEF – The International Bromine Council, notes the recent coverage by Bloomberg BusinessWeek “The Woman Who Got Bromine Out of Kids’ Pajamas Fears It’s Coming” from the 28nd of August of 2019[1] and the same article published on the 2nd of September of 2019 entitled “Woman against the element”. Unfortunately, the article by the reporter Tiffany Kary referring to Arlene Blum´s arguments, contains several inaccuracies and misleading claims that BSEF would like to point out.

In the article Ms. Kary paraphrases Arlene Blum’s assertion that “using these chemicals in insulation doesn’t improve fire safety.” However, that’s untrue. There’s no evidence for Ms. Blum’s claim, which is in fact contradicted by every study that has examined the issue. In her own testimony, Ms. Blum relied on a study commissioned by the State of California Fire Marshall and conducted by Oklahoma State University (OSU).

“The hazard profile of the butadiene styrene brominated copolymer shows that this chemical is anticipated to be safer than HBCD. Due its large size, lack of low molecular weight (MW) components, and un-reactive functional groups, human health and ecotoxicity hazard for this copolymer is measured or predicted to be low.”

[2] EPA, 2014. Flame Retardant Alternatives to Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).

Paula Melton of BuildingGreen noted that even the OSU study “showed that flame retardants do make a difference in how quickly fires start and spread, and it pointed out problems with allowing foam without flame retardants into the marketplace.”1 The lead study author Robert Agnew also told BuildingGreen that a major concern was whether insulation without FRs would ignite and burn more quickly on the jobsite. Researchers found this to be the case.[3]

Regarding Ms. Blum concern about the use flame retardants in building. BSEF would like to clarify that Butadiene Styrene Co-polymer (“Polymeric FR”) is designed specifically to deliver improved EHS properties (non-PBT) and was developed over many years of careful research as replacement for HBCD.

It has a superior sustainability profile compared to HBCD (EPA Report June 2014).  “It represents an important and innovative step forward for the Industry in providing effective flame-retardant performance in polystyrene foams such as Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Extruded Polystyrene (XPS)”, noted Dr Bradley, BSEF secretary General.

Finally, there was also no mention that the scientific basis for Ms. Blum’s claims has recently been disavowed by the author of the research work she references[4], Christoph Koch. In a statement to Environmental Science & Technology, Koch admits that the focus of his “study was never on the toxicity of potential degradation products.”[5] He also recently published a follow-up study from his ES&T published paper admitting that Polymeric FRs do not degrade in the building insulation applications for which they are intended. Readers should be aware that the science actually contradicts Ms. Blum’s claims and that Koch has retracted on what his research study intended to demonstrate.


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.

Further information: Visit to learn more and follow BSEF on Twitter @BromineInfo for the latest news and information.

[1] The Woman Who Got Bromine Out of Kids’ Pajamas Fears It’s Coming Back

[2] 3 EPA, 2014. Flame Retardant Alternatives to Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). USEPA Design for the Environment

Final Report June 12, 2014,

[3] Extracted from Dupont letter to Ms Kary – September 10, 2019