EPA Identifies Substitutes for Flame Retardant Chemical

Published August 8, 2012

Thirty possible alternatives to the toxic flame retardant chemical decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) and their environmental and human health hazards are detailed in an EPA draft report released on July 30. According to EPA’s press release, the decaBDE alternatives listed in the draft report are already on the market and will be used increasingly as decaBDE is phased out of production by December 2013.

In December 2009, the two U.S. producers and the largest U.S. importer of decaBDE agreed to phase out the chemical in the U.S. As part of the decaBDE phase-out initiative, the companies committed to end most uses of decaBDE by Dec. 31, 2012, and end all uses by Dec. 31, 2013.

EPA reports that the decaBDE alternatives differ in hazard characteristics and that some are associated with trade-offs; for example, “some alternatives that appear to have a relatively positive human health profile may be more persistent in the environment.” However, preliminary data suggest that the alternatives may have a lower potential for bioaccumulation in both people and the environment.

The draft report was developed with public participation under EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program. For more information on DfE, visit EPA’s website.

View the full draft report, “An Alternatives Assessment for the Flame Retardant Decabromodiphenyl Ether (DecaBDE),” as a PDF.