Flame Retardants and Human Health

Posted on 6/16/2014 2:33:01 PM By Paul Bertram

Over the last few months, I have been focusing discussions on “Material Transparency” with regard to increasing pressures for manufacturers and suppliers to provide reporting on environmental impacts with ISO 14025 certified Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and respective chemistry hazards utilizing HPDs (Health Product Declarations), C2C or “Manufacturer’s  Inventory” that is publicly available inventory of all ingredients identified by name and Chemical Abstract Service Registration Number (CASRN).

These pressures are coming from the EPA, the Healthy Building Network, USGBC (LEEDv4), the Red List of the Living Building Challenge, various architectural firms and “Crowd Sourcing” (defined as: CONTENT BY SOLICITING CONTRIBUTIONS FROM A LARGE GROUP OF LIKE MINDED SELF-INDENTIFIED VOLUNTEERS SUPPORTING AN IDEA).

Human Heath heads up of the pyramid of influence, the higher in pyramid, the greater the influence:

human health pyramid, flame retardants

Flame Retardants are a singular focus of several initiatives. Specifically, Halogenated Flame retardants have been called out as Human Health chemistries of concern.  Arlene Blum believes flame retardants, used in most rigid insulation materials bioaccumulate, get into the environment and don’t go away, which puts these materials into a whole different category of risk compared with other products.

The debate going on in the industry right now relates to building codes that eliminate flame retardants from all insulation.

Per the Adhesives and Sealants Magazine article—Fire-Retardant Adhesives—by Edward M. Petrie, fire retardants are in a unique position among polymeric additives.  Their market is sustained by some regulations, yet threatened by others. Environmental and toxicity concerns now have regulators looking with a dubious eye at the important halogenated and antimony-based synergist flame retardants that have been developed and widely used over the years.

This opinion was recently supported with the EPA’s announced research findings that identify safer substitutes for toxic flame retardants. According to the research, flame retardant chemicals such as hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE) raise concerns for human health and the environment to include potential reproductive, developmental, and neurological effects and can be persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic to aquatic organisms.

EPA released the final report on alternatives to the flame retardant HBCD and is releasing an updated draft report on alternatives to the flame retardant penta BDE. These alternatives were identified through EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE)  Alternatives Assessment Program.

The EPA’s alternatives to flame retardants is a next step in challenging manufacturers to ensure Human Heath in building materials and consumer products. How will you and your suppliers and customers  respond?

comments powered by Disqus