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EPA Evaluates Safer Substitutes for Flame Retardant HBCD

chemicalsIn an effort to help manufacturers use safer chemicals in polystyrene building insulation, the EPA has released a draft report on alternatives to hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), a flame retardant chemical that has persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic characteristics.

The Design for the Environment (DfE) Alternatives Assessment draft report identifies two viable chemical alternatives — a butadiene styrene brominated copolymer and TBBPA-bis brominated ether derivative — for use in polystyrene building insulation, in addition to a list of substances that are not currently expected to be viable. A butadiene styrene brominated copolymer is anticipated to be safer than HBCD and is currently in commercial production in the US.

The UN in May banned the production and use of HBCD with a five-year grace period for its use as a flame-retardant in polystyrene building insulation, Agence France-Presse reports. The toxic chemical, which is on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants prohibited substances list, is also slated to be phased out by European Union counties by 2015 under EU chemical rules REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals).

In March, as part of a broader effort to address flame retardant chemicals, EPA identified 20 flame retardants for risk assessment under the Toxics Substances Control Act work plan. This included developing full risk assessments on four of these chemicals, including HBCD.

The EPA will use the information from these full assessments to better understand chemicals with similar structures and characteristics. If the agency identifies potential risks, the agency will evaluate and pursue appropriate risk reduction actions. The EPA anticipates making the draft risk assessments available for public comment and peer review in 2014.

To further assist companies in selecting safer chemicals, the EPA launched ChemView, a web-based tool designed to provide a single access point to a wide array of chemical data, earlier this month.

Image Credit: Chemicals image via Shutterstock


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