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Flame Retardants

Frequently Asked Questions

The European Flame Retardants Association

EFRA - The European Flame Retardants Association

Chemistry making a world of difference

Compiled and edited by Adrian Beard, Clariant,

fire test photos by Ralf Baumgarten taken at
Siemens Brandversuchshaus in Frankfurt-
Hoechst and BayerIndustryServices Fire Test
Laboratory in Leverkusen. We thank the teams
of Knut Bauer and Michael Halfmann for their
help and technical assistance.

Cover photos:
Candles are a common cause of ignition for
domestic fires. The stereo shown on the front
cover is engulfed in flames after 7 minutes when
ignited with a small flame - see the photo on
the back cover.

Flame Retardants
Frequently Asked Questions

Flame Retardants - General Aspects 2

General Fire Safety 4

Fire Safety Standards and Regulations 8

Flame Retardants and other Safety Technologies 12

Flame Retardant types and applications 14

Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) 16

Flame Retardants based on Phosphorus Compounds (PFRs) 18

Mineral flame retardants 20

Nitrogen-containing Flame Retardants 22

Other Flame Retardants - Borates, Stannates, ... 24

Flame Retardants - Health and the Environment 26

Recycling and Waste Management of Flame Retardants 32

Common Abbreviations for Flame Retardants 35

Literature and Further Reading 36

EFRA Members 37

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Flame Retardants - General Aspects

What are flame retardants?

Flame retardants are chemicals which are added to combustible materials to render them
more resistant to ignition. They are designed to minimise the risk of a fire starting in case
of contact with a small heat source such as a cigarette, candle or an electrical fault. If the
flame retarded material or an adjacent material has ignited, the flame retardant will slow
down combustion and often prevent the fire from spreading to other items. Since the term
flame retardant describes a function and not a chemical class, there is a wide range of
different chemicals which are used for this purpose. Often they are applied in combinations.
This variety of products is necessary, because the materials and products which are to be
rendered fire safe are very different in nature and composition. For example, plastics have
a wide range of mechanical and chemical properties and differ in combustion behaviour.
Therefore, they need to be matched to the appropriate flame retardants in order to retain
key material functionalities. Flame retardants are thus necessary to ensure the fire safety
of a wide range of materials including plastics, foam and fibre insulation materials, foams
in furniture, mattresses, wood products, natural and man-made textiles. These materials
are e.g. used in parts of electrical equipment, cars, airplanes and building components.

tronic equipment where the accel- litres of petrol? Flame retardants
erating processor power, electronic can be applied to many different
sophistication but at the same time flammable materials to prevent a
miniaturisation, result in a concen- fire or to delay its start and propa-
tration of energy and an increase in gation by interrupting or hindering
risks of local overheating or other the combustion process. They thus
electrical fire risks. Flame retardants protect lives, property and the en-
can prevent an increase in fire risk vironment. Flame retardants con-
from the growing number of con- tribute to meeting high fire safety
sumer and electronic goods in hom- requirements for combustible ma-
es and offices. Flame retardants terials and finished products pre-
protect modern materials such as scribed in regulations and tests. Al-
technical plastics, building insula- though fire safety can be achieved
tion, circuit boards and cables from by using non-combustible materials
igniting and from spreading a fire. in some cases or by design and en-
gineering approaches, the use of
Once a fire starts in a room of a flame retarded materials often
house, it can develop rapidly, if it meets the functionality and aesthet-
spreads to items other than that ic requirements of the consumer as
first ignited. Once a number of well as offering the most econom-
items are burning, the temperature ical approach.
in the room will rise, and may reach
"flash over" point, when hot burn-
ing gases cause effectively the whole Examples:
room to catch light, often violently.
Once this occurs, escape from the Metal casings for electrical equip-
room is impossible, and spread of ment afford fire safety, but pose
the fire to other rooms is very likely. electrical risks, as well as being
Flame retardants act both by pre- heavier, more expensive and less
venting the initial start of a fire by design flexible than modern plas-
impeding ignition and by delaying tics.
the spread of the fire, thus increas-
ing escape time, and perhaps pre- An increasing use of plastics in
venting "flash over". cars, trains and aeroplanes offers
lower weight and so improved
fuel economy, but necessitates
What are the benefits of flame retar- flame retardants to ensure fire
dants? safety.

Most people do not realise that their Mineral fibres for building insul-
television set, sofa, mattress and ation are not flammable, but may
Why do we need flame retardants? computer are all made essentially not offer the same energy perfor-
from plastics (originally made from mance, structural characteristics
Both our homes and offices contain crude oil), and without the inclusion or flexibility of application as poly-
an increasing potential "fire load" of flame retardants many of these mer foams.
of flammable materials because of products can be set alight by just a
the development of electrical and short circuit or cigarette and be- Even where non-flammable mate-
electronic equipment, and of rising come a burning mass in just a few rials such as steel are used, flame
levels of comfort (furniture, carpets, minutes. Did you know for example, retardant intumescent coatings can
toys, magazines and papers ...). that a regular TV set contains in its provide valuable heat protection for
The potential causes of fires also combustible plastics an energy con- these to limit or delay mechanical
tend to increase, especially in elec- tent which is equivalent to several deterioration in the case of fire.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

General Fire Safety

How large is the number of victims from fires?

Statistics show that generally between 10 and 20 fire deaths per 1 000 000 inhabi-
tants are reported in the major industrial countries of the world. The number
of severely injured people is estimated at ten times this figure, i.e. 100 to 200
per 1 000 000 inhabitants per year. Every day in Europe there are about 12 fire
victims and 120 people severely injured. About 80 % of all fire deaths occur in
residential buildings. The people most at risk are the very young and the elderly
because they are least able to escape in the event of a fire.
and World Fire Statistics

What is the most common cause
of death in fires?

The most common cause of death

in fires is to be overcome by gas or
smoke: In the UK, around 50 % of
people die this way, while 25 % of
deaths are due to burns and 20 %
are attributed to both burns and
being overcome by gas or smoke.
5 % of fire deaths cannot be speci-
fied. Accidental fires in the home
have far higher casualty levels than
any other location.

Why are fire gases toxic?

Fires gases are toxic, because in all Besides these volatile gases, some
fires toxic products are formed from more complex products are formed
the incomplete combustion of or- like polycyclic aromatic hydrocar-
ganic materials like plastics, wood, bons (PAHs) or halogenated dioxins
textiles and paper. The component and furans (PXDD/F). These pro-
which usually dominates the toxicity ducts are formed in much lower
of fire effluents is carbon monoxide quantities and are not relevant for
(CO), which is responsible for over acute toxic effects but they can have
80 % of all people killed by fire gas- long term health effects. However,
es. One striking example is the Ds- because they are higher molecular
seldorf Airport fire in 1996: here, all weight substances, they are mostly
17 fire deaths were due to CO poi- adsorbed to soot which reduces
soning. By delaying the combustion their toxic potential. The polycyclic
of treated materials and the spread aromatic hydrocarbons are typical
of the fire, flame retardants signifi- products from incomplete combus-
What is the economic damage cantly reduce the emissions of toxic tion of organic materials and they
caused by fire? gases. dominate the long-term toxicity of
Besides CO, many other toxic com- soot. The conclusion from many
The total economic damage is esti- ponents can be formed in a fire: studies carried out on this subject
mated at about 25 billion per year Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) may be is that although the substances
in Europe. In Germany alone, com- formed from plastics like polyur- emitted from fires are very variable,
pensation costs covered by insur- ethane and polyamide as well as depending on fire conditions, the
ance companies amount to 1.5 bil- from natural products which con- toxicity is above all a function of the
lion per year and there are about tain nitrogen like wool and leather. quantity of material burned.
200 major fire incidents with dam- Irritant fire gas components are
ages in excess of 0.5 million . hydrogen chloride (HCl) evolving
from plastics like PVC and acrolein, (USA) released from natural products like babrauskas_summary.pdf
wood. However, compared to the
toxic potential of CO, which is pre-
sent in large quantities in all fires, prison_mattress.pdf
the other fire gas components usu-
ally only play a minor role. Fire_LCA_study_TV.pdf

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Does the presence of flame retar- release. The impact of flame retar-
dants increase the toxicity of dants on smoke or fire gases also
smoke? depends on the proportion of flame
retarded material to the total fire
This is a concern which is often load. Room fire tests which com-
raised. It is based on the fact that pared a room with non flame retar-
some flame retardants act by im- ded materials to a room with flame
peding the combustion reactions retarded items (TV cabinet, busi-
in the gas phase and therefore lead ness machine housing, upholstered
to incomplete combustion which chair, electrical cables, electrical
in turn means a smoky fire. circuit board) revealed:
However, large scale studies have
demonstrated that the toxic hazards The total quantities of toxic gases
from a fire are more dependant on released by the FR products was
how much is burning under which one third that for the non FR.
conditions of temperature and ven-
tilation rather than what is burning. Total smoke production was not
Two cases can be considered: significantly different.

1. The flame retarded (FR) material "Because the total quantities of

is subject to the primary ignition material consumed in the full-
source: if this is a small flame or room tests with FR products are
other low energy source like a cig- much lower than with non FR pro-
arette butt, the presence of flame ducts, the total carbon monoxide
retardants in the material may cause [the dominant toxic fire gas] emis-
it to smoulder and smoke some- sions are thus around half with
what, but will severely impede igni- the flame retarded products, sig-
tion and in most cases no fire will nificantly reducing the fire haz-
develop. If burning is sustained, the ard."
release of heat and the spread of (Source: Babrauskas V. et al. (1988)
flames will be severely hindered by Fire Hazard Comparison of Fire-Retar-
flame retardants allowing people ded and Non-Fire-Retarded Products.
more time to escape from the fire. NBS special publication SP 749. NIST,
The most significant reduction in USA)
toxic gases from fires is achieved
by actually preventing the fire, or Therefore, it is clear that because
preventing it from spreading from flame retardants reduce the number
one item to a whole room. and extent of fires, they can signi-
ficantly reduce both the total levels
2.The flame retarded material is of such toxic gases in a given fire
not the first item ignited but is invol- and the total emissions from all
ved in a fire that is already develop- fires. This has been investigated
ing: In this case flame retardants and proven for television sets and
cannot prevent the ignition of the upholstered furniture in life cycle
material and it will eventually be assessment studies (
thermally degraded or burn. How- Please see the EFRA website for
ever, flame retardants will reduce detailed information and references.
the rate of flame spread and heat


fully developed fire

initiation of fire

start of fire flash over after < 10 min

How does a fire develop?

A fire can basically be split into three fire. The fire spreads, heats up the oped fire, where temperatures up
phases, the initiating fire, the fully surroundings and once the materi- to 1 200 C can be reached. The fire
developed fire and the decreasing als in the room have formed enough will later decrease as the available
fire. The fire starts with an ignition flammable gases and are sufficiently fire load is consumed by the fire or
source (for example a match) set- hot, flashover takes place and the if the fire occurs in a totally closed
ting combustible material (for ex- whole room is engulfed in the fire. room the fire can die because of
ample an upholstered armchair) on This is the start of the fully devel- oxygen deficiency.

The fundamental parameters go- paper - on the other hand, there are
verning a fire are: materials which are difficult to ignite
Heat but once ignited will release a large
Combustibility: Will a material amount of energy like diesel fuel or


burn? many plastics. In addition, in all



fires secondary effects occur. These




Ignitability: If it is combustible, do not primarily determine the



how and when will it ignite? course of the fire, but cause most
of the fire deaths or damage to ma-
Spread of flame: Once ignited, terials. These effects are:
Fuel Air
Mixing of fuel and air how quickly will the flames
spread? Smoke development
Fire Triangle (according to Emmons)
Heat release: What will be the Fire gas toxicity
What are the parameters governing rate and total amount of heat
a fire? released? Corrosivity and contamination
by soot (more relevant to ma-
The fire triangle indicates where On the one hand, there are mater- terials than to humans and par-
flame retardants can interfere in the ials that are easily ignitable but have ticularly sensitive for electronic
combustion process. a relatively small energy content like equipment)

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Fire Safety Standards and Regulations

What is the role of fire safety regulations?

Fire safety regulations aim at preventing fires and saving lives and property. Fire safety regulations
exist for building, transportation (road and rail vehicles, aircraft and ships), electrical engineering
& electronics as well as for furnishings and textiles. One example for the benefits of fire safety
regulations is the introduction of the United Kingdom Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety)
Regulations in 1988. The strict requirements on the fire performance of upholstered furniture
which these regulations stipulated were often met by using flame retardants.
Taking into account changes in smoking habits and increased installation of smoke alarms,
these regulations were estimated to be saving more than 230 lives and 4 200 injuries per year
by 2002 (see graph on opposite page). A study carried out for the French association of Burns
Victims (ABF) indicates that a fire safety requirement for furniture would save, in the long term,
210 lives/year and result in net economic benefits of over 700 million /year

Preliminary Legal and Socio-Economic Study for the Projected Decree on Fire Safety Standards for
Upholstered Furniture, C. Chevalier for Association des Brls de France, July 2005

total deaths per million population
related to smoke
from burns
from first ignition in upholstery
deaths per million population per year

1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Source: International Fire Statistics and the Potential Benefits of Fire Counter-Measures, A. Emsley
et al., University of Surrey, UK, 2005. Available at

What are fire safety requirements? In Europe, the two fields where
national requirements are still used,
Fire safety requirements are contain- building and railways, are being
ed in regulations, technical guide- harmonised in the framework of the
lines, safety standards and approval European Union. However in the
procedures. Today, they cover field of upholstered furniture, the
finished products rather than single national regulations of the UK and
materials and allow their classifi- Ireland provide the highest levels
cation by the use of specific fire of fire safety.
tests. Fire safety requirements are In continental Europe efforts to
becoming more and more introduce such strict requirements
international: on a European level still continue.

Requirement Examples

General safety EU General Product Safety Construction Products

regulations Directive 2001/95/EC Directive 89/106/EC

Product standards IEC 60065 for television sets EN 13162 ... 13171 for
and other audio / video thermal insulation
products for buildings

Fire test standard UL 94 flammability standard Single Burning Item

Test, EN 13823

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

What is the role of fire tests?

The role of fire tests is to determine formance is determined. Fire tests requirements defined in the tests.
the fire risk of materials and finished were developed to simulate the The sample size can vary from a
products used in applications like ignition behaviour of materials or small strip of material (e.g. 12.7 cm
building, transportation, electrical even real fire events, which are x 1.27 cm; for the UL 94 test) up to
engineering and furniture. They are thought to be particularly harmful boards of 1.5 x 1.5 m2 (SBI-Test),
the basis upon which a material's to humans and property. The individual furniture items or even
flammability or a product's fire per- products have to meet fire safety complete furnished rooms.

Recent improvements in fire safety


In 2006, the United States adopted posed rulemaking for fire safety of Improved standards for furniture
a federal regulation requiring strict upholstered furniture and for bed- and mattresses have recently been
mattress fire safety for all mattres- clothes. developed: in Sweden, 2002, fire
ses sold in the USA from July 2007 requirements for mattresses for
(flame resistance and limited heat In Europe, the companies Philips, high risk health institutions and
emission). The US Consumer Pro- Panasonic, Finlux and Sony volun- prisons (standard SS 876 00 10); in
duct Safety Commission estimates tarily announced in 2004 that all France, 2006, revised fire safety
that 240-270 lives and 1 150 - 1 330 their TV sets sold in Europe will in standards for seats in public places
injuries per year will be saved, and future be ignition resistant (Article AM 18, Norme NF D
calculate a net benefit to society of ( Unlike generally 60013).
US$ 820 million/year. The USA has in Europe, TV sets sold on the US
also issued advance notice of pro- market are already ignition resistant.

Transportation Are there ways to meet fire safety
levels without using flame retar-
- Automotive: FMVSS 302 dants?
(Federal Motor Vehicle Safety
Standard, USA) Yes, there are: safety standards and
- Railways: Different national fire tests do not prescribe how to
tests and pending new harmo- reach the necessary fire perform-
nised European tests ance. For example, a manufacturer
(EN TS 45545) can choose a non-combustible ma-
- Aircraft: Various Bunsen burner terial like steel for an equipment
tests, OSU (Ohio State Univer- housing, or engineering design ap-
sity) heat release and kerosene proaches are stipulated in some
burner seat tests standards which waive the need for
fire proof materials if certain safety
distances are kept from potential
What are the most important fire Electrical Engineering & ignition sources. Plastic materials
tests for the main application areas Electronics are often favoured because of their
of flame retardants? low price and ease of processing
- Flammability tests according to which allows mass manufacture
The most important fire tests for UL (Underwriters Laboratories) even of sophisticated designs and
combustible materials used in build- 94: Horizontal burning HB, shapes. The different types of
ing, motor vehicles, railways, air- Vertical burning with classes V2, plastics also differ widely in ignita-
craft, ships, electrical engineering, V1, V0, 5V bility. However, with the exception
furniture, mattresses and textiles - Glow wire test (IEC 60335) of chlorinated polymers like PVC
mainly cover the parameters flam- most "naturally" flame resistant
mability, spread of flame, heat plastics are also very expensive and
release and smoke development. Upholstered furniture and textiles more difficult to process. In textiles
Some of the major fire tests are: the situation is similar: inherently
- BS 5852: tests for assessment less flammable materials are avail-
of the ignitability of upholstered able, but often at a considerably
Building seating by smouldering and higher price and usually with differ-
flaming ignition sources ent material properties - the "look
- National tests: - EN 1021: Cigarette and match and feel" of a fabric is very important
tests for furniture filling and if it is used for clothing, furniture
French Epiradiateur test cover (part 1 and 2) items or curtains for example.
(NF P 92-501 ... 507) - ISO 6940/41: Flammability tests Flame retardants are only one ele-
German Brandschacht and for textiles ment of fire safety, however, a very
small flame test (DIN 4102) - 16 CFR Part 1633: US federal significant one. Other elements are
British Surface spread of flame mattress flammability standard e.g. a good education of the public
test (BS 476 part 7) (USA 2006) on fire safety, smoke alarms in pub-
lic buildings and private homes and
- Harmonised European tests: For further information on fire tests a well functioning fire service. Only
please refer to: Troitzsch, Jurgen by combining all measures can we
Single Burning Item test (2004): Plastics Flammability minimise fire damages and fatali-
(SBI, EN 13823) Handbook. Hanser Publishers and ties. Just think of your car - do you
Small flame test Oxford University Press, Munich. dispose of the safety belt, now that
(EN ISO 11925-2) 3rd edition. you have an airbag?

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Flame Retardants and other

Safety Technologies

Is it not sufficient to have smoke alarms in homes?

Do we need chemicals for fire protection, if everybody had a smoke alarm in his home? To
answer this question, EFRA commissioned a study at the German Federal Institute for Materials
Testing and Research, BAM (, in Berlin. Their task was to evaluate the contributions
to fire safety from smoke alarms and flame retarded items in a home, like TV sets or upholstered

tional fluid dynamics (CFD) which In these tests, the fires developed
they validated against a number of very rapidly after igniting either a
experimental data sets like the NIST. TV or a bed mattress with a candle.
study. In these scenarios selected
furniture and electrical devices were "From our point of view, a combina-
compared with such items with re- tion of both fire safety measures is
duced flammability which is typically necessary to fundamentally improve
achieved by the application of flame the fire safety in homes: the instal-
retardants. Although smoke alarms lation of smoke detectors as well
quickly respond to a developing fire as the equipment of high risk items
and can alert the inhabitants, espe- of furniture or electrical devices like
cially if they are asleep, a clear safety upholstery or TV sets with flame
benefit for the scenarios with flame retardants" says Dr. Anja Hofmann,
retarded items could be demonstra- lead researcher at BAM.
ted: the times to dangerous smoke
densities and flashover are signi-
ficantly reduced which results in For further information see:
Previous investigations e.g. of NIST longer escape times. Depending on
[1] revealed that smoke detectors the ignition source and the fire safe-
do have a positive effect on fire ty requirements, a fire might not
safety, but they also show that even develop in the flame retarded
escape times can be very short in case. Numerical predictions are in fachabteilungen/abteilung_7/fg73/
residential fires, even down to less good agreement with the results of index.htm
than 4 minutes. This reduction in experimental studies in which flame
escape times over the last 30 years retarded furniture or electrical de- 1. Bukowski, R.W., Peacock, R.D., Averill, J.D.,
vices were tested in full scale tests. Cleary, T.G., Bryner, N.P., Walton, W.D.,
is attributed to the widespread use
Reneke, P.A., Kuligowski, E.D. Performance of
of flammable plastics and textiles. In addition, two large scale fire tests Home Smoke Alarms, Analysis of the Response
Therefore, the researchers at BAM representing a living room and a od Several Available Technologies in Residential
modelled several fire scenarios in children's room were carried out Fire Settings.
residential buildings by computa- together with the Berlin fire service. NIST Technical Note 1455, July 2004

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Flame Retardant types and applications

What is the mode of action of flame retardants?

By chemical and/or physical action, flame retardants will inhibit or even suppress the combustion
process. They interfere with combustion during a particular stage of this process, e.g. during
heating, decomposition, ignition or flame spread. The amount of flame retardant one has to
add to achieve the desired level of fire safety can range from less than one percent for highly
effective flame retardants up to more than 50 percent for inorganic fillers. Typical ranges are
5 to 20 percent by weight.

The most effective chemical action may take The less effective physical action may take
place by place by

Reaction in the gas phase: The radical gas Cooling: Energy absorbing (Endothermic)
phase combustion process is interrupted processes triggered by additives and/or the
by the flame retardant, resulting in cooling chemical release of water cool the substrate
of the system, reducing and eventually sup- to a temperature below that required for
pressing the supply of flammable gases. sustaining the combustion process.

Reaction in the solid phase: The flame retar- Formation of a protective layer (coating):
dant builds up a char layer and shields the The material is shielded with a solid or gas-
material against oxygen and provides a bar- eous protective layer and protected from
rier against the heat source (flame). heat and oxygen necessary for the combus-
tion process.

Dilution: Inert substances (fillers) and

additives evolving non-combustible gases
dilute the fuel in the solid and gaseous

Data according to EFRA survey and SRI consulting figures, based on tonnages:

Cl-Paraffins 7,4% Brominated FR 10,8%

Melamine 2,8%
(and its salts)

Borates 3,2%
& Stannates
Antimony trioxide 3,4%

MDH 4,3%
Phosphates 10,0%

non-halogenated 8,4%

ATH (aluminium
trihydroxide) 49,6%

How important is the flame retar- highest market share by volume.

dants market? A global growth of around 3 % per
year is foreseen for the near future.
What are the main families of flame With a global consumption of about Inorganic flame retardants like alu-
retardants? 2.9 billion US$, flame retardants minium trihydroxide have experi-
are the most important group of enced the highest growth rates late-
The main families of flame plastics additives which have a ly, followed by phosphorus and
retardants are based on compounds total market volume of around nitrogen based systems.
containing: 11 billion . According to SRI Con- Since a number of flame retardants
sulting, the 2005 global flame retar- are high production volume chemi-
Halogens (Bromine and Chlorine) dants consumption amounted to cals, they have been scrutinised
Phosphorus 1.5 million tonnes. EFRA members under current chemical regulations
Nitrogen estimate a consumption of like the European Union risk assess-
Intumescent Systems 464 000 tonnes of flame retardants ment process.
Minerals (based on aluminium in Europe (EU-25, 2005).
and magnesium) Brominated flame retardants have See chapter on Environmental and
Others (like Borax, Sb2O3, the highest market share by value Health aspects for further inform-
nanocomposites) and aluminium trihydroxide the ation.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)

What are the applications of BFRs ?

BFRs are commonly used to prevent fires in electronics and electrical equipment. This area
accounts for more than 50% of their applications - for example in the outer housings of TV sets
and computer monitors. Indeed, the internal circuitry of such devices can heat up and, over time,
collect dust. Short circuits and electrical or electronic malfunctions can occur. Printed circuit
boards also require flame retardancy properties which are often provided by a crosslinked
brominated epoxy resin polymer manufactured from tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA). In addition,
BFRs are used in wire and cable compounds, for example for use in buildings and vehicles as
well as other building materials, such as insulation foams. They are also used in speciality fabric
back-coatings for curtains, seating and furniture in transport and public buildings as well as
domestic upholstered furniture conforming to the UK and Ireland Furniture1 Flammability
1 Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, UK

pean risk assessment concluded Brominated (poly)styrene
that no risk was identified for hu-
man health or the environment in
the use of Deca-BDE. The two other n
commercial products of the PBDE
family -PentaBDE and Octa BDE- x = 2,7
may no longer be used in Europe Brx
since August 2004.
is commonly used in polyester and
Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) polyamides, It is a polymer itself
and is therefore quite immobile in
Br Br the matrix.

Brominated phenols


Br Br Br Br

What does a Brominated FR mean? is a cycloaliphatic BFR. It is com-

monly used in foamed polystyrene Brx
There are about 75 different com- for insulation of buildings where it
mercial BFRs, each with specific is only necessary at very low load- e.g. tribromophenol, are reactive
properties and toxicological beha- ings. For compact polystyrene (high flame retardants most often used
viour. The only common feature is impact) higher loadings are neces- as intermediates in the manufacture
they contain bromine and act in the sary. Another application is in tex- of polymeric brominated flame
vapour phase by a radical trap me- tiles. retardants. They can be used as
chanism. They come in various end caps in brominated carbonate
forms and can be liquids, powders Tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA) oligomers and brominated epoxy
or pellets. The most important BFRs Br Br oligomers, which in turn are used
are: as flame retardants.
Polybrominated diphenylethers Tetrabromophthalic anhydride
Br Br O
Br Br Br Br is mainly used in epoxy resins for Br
printed wiring boards, where it is O
Br O Br reacted into the polymer backbone Br
and so becomes a tightly bound O
part of the polymer. It is also used
Br Br Br Br
as an additive flame retardant is often used as a reactive flame
Decabromodiphenylether (Deca- mainly in ABS plastics, as an inter- retardant in unsaturated polyesters
BDE) is the only commercial pro- mediate in the production of other used to manufacture circuit boards
duct currently in use from the PBDE brominated FR systems, in deriva- and cellular phones. It also serves
familly. It has 10 bromine atoms tives, in epoxy oligomers and in as a raw material for the manu-
attached to the diphenylether mole- engineering plastics for electrical facture of other flame retardants.
cule, a high molecular weight and and electronic devices. The human
high thermal stability. Its major health part of the European Risk
applications are in styrenic poly- Assessment concluded in May 2005
mers, polyolefins polyesters, nylons that TBBPA is safe for human
and textiles. In May 2004, the Euro- health.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Flame Retardants based on

Phosphorus Compounds (PFRs)

What does a phosphorus based flame retardant mean?

The class of Phosphorus-containing flame retardants covers a wide range of inorganic and
organic compounds and include both reactive (chemically bound into the material) and additive
(integrated into the material by physical misering only) compounds. They have a broad application
field, and a good fire safety performance.

The most important phosphorus-containing flame retardants are:

Phosphate esters
Phosphonates and phosphinates
Red phosphorus and ammonium polyphosphate

Phosphates, phosphonates and Ammonium polyphosphate...
are used as reactive phosphorus-
containing flame retardants in
flexible polyurethane foams for
automotive and building appli-
cations. Additive organic phos- n
phinates are a new class of flame
retardants for use in engineering grades are primarily used in intu-
plastics, particularly in polyamides. mescent coatings. They are also
Specific reactive phosphorus flame used in rigid and flexible polyuretha-
retardants are used in polyester ne foams and polyolefins (injection
fibres (e.g. Trevira CS) and for wash moulded), in formulations for un-
resi stent flame retardant textile saturated polyesters, phenolics,
finishes. Other reactive organo- epoxies and coatings for textiles.
phosphorus compounds can be
used in epoxy resins in printed
circuit boards.

What are the applications for PFRs?

Phosphorus-containing flame retar-

dants are widely used in standard
and engineering plastics, polyur-
ethane foams, thermosets, coat-
ings, and textiles. figure: polymeric structure of red phosphorus

Phosphate esters... Red Phosphorus

are mainly used as flame retardant Flame retardant grades based on
plasticizers in polyvinylchloride red phosphorus are mainly used in
(PVC, alkyl/aryl phosphates) and polyamide 6 and 66, meet UL 94 V0
engineering plastics, particularly in fire safety level at low dosages and
polyphenylene oxide/high impact are particularly effective in glass
polystyrene (PPO/HIPS), polycarbo- fibre reinforced formulations.
nate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene Further applications are in polyethyl-
(PC/ ABS) blends and polycarbo- ene and ethylene vinyl acetate
nate (PC, e.g. triphenylphosphate, (EVA), polyurethane foam, and
resocinol- and bisphenol A- bis-(di- thermosettings resins (unsaturated
phenyl) phosphate). The latter are polyesters and epoxies).
widely used in IT housings requiring
high fire safety levels. Other appli- Principal chemical structures:
cations include phenolic resins and O O O
coatings. Additive chlorinated phos-
phate esters like tris(2-chloroiso- R1 O P O R2 R1 P O R2 R1 P R2
propyl) phosphate (TCPP) and
tris(1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phos- O O O
phate (TDCP) are used in flexible
polyurethane foams for upholstered R3 R3 R3
furniture and automotive applica- Phosphate Ester Phosphonate Phosphinate
tions. TCPP is also widely used in
rigid PU insulation foams. R1, R2, R3 are organic substituents, they can be different or the same

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Mineral flame retardants

What does a mineral flame retardant mean?

Aluminium trihydroxide (ATH) is by far the most widely used flame retardant on a tonnage
basis. It is inexpensive, but usually requires higher loadings in polymers up to more than 60%,
because the flame retardant mechanism is based on the release of water which cools and dilutes
the flame zone. Magnesium hydroxide (MDH) is used in polymers which have higher processing
temperatures, because it is stable up to temperatures of around 300 C versus ATH which de-
composes around 200 C. Other inorganic fillers like talcum or chalk (calcium carbonate) are
not flame retardants in the common sense; however, simply by diluting the combustible polymer
they reduce its flammability and fire load.

2 Al(OH)3 200 C 3 H2O + Al2O3

+ 1050 kJ / kg

Mg(OH)2 300 C H2O + MgO

+ 1300 kJ / kg

What are the applications for
mineral flame retardants?

Fine precipitated ATH and MDH

(< 2 m) are used in melt com-
pounding and extrusion of thermo-
plastics like cable PVC or polyolefins
for cables. For use in cable, ATH
and more often MDH are coated
with organic materials to improve
their compatibility with the polymer.
Coarser ground and air separated
grades can be used in liquid resin
compounding of thermosets for
electrical applications, seats, panels
and vehicle parts.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Nitrogen-containing Flame Retardants

What does a nitrogen flame retardant mean?

Three chemical groups can be distinguished: pure melamine, melamine derivatives,

i.e. salts with organic or inorganic acids such as boric acid, cyanuric acid, phosphoric NH2
acid or pyro/poly-phosphoric acid, and melamine homologues such as melam, melem
and melon, the latter finding only experimental use at this stage. Nitrogen flame retar- N N
dants are believed to act by several mechanisms: In the condensed phase, melamine
is transformed into cross-linked structures which promote char formation. Ammonia
is released in these reactions. In conjunction with phosphorus, the nitrogen appears
to enhance the attachment of the phosphorus to the polymer. A mechanism in the gas Melamine
phase may be the release of molecular nitrogen which dilutes the volatile polymer
decomposition products.

What are the applications for
nitrogen flame retardants?

Melamine is mainly used in poly-

urethane foams, whereas melamine
cyanurate is used in nylons or in
polypropylene intumescent formu-
lations in conjunction with ammon-
ium polyphosphate. The phosphate,
poly- and pyrophosphates of mela-
mine contain both nitrogen and
phosphorus and are used in nylons.
In some specific formulations, tria-
zines, isocyanurates, urea, guanid-
ine and cyanuric acid derivatives
are used as reactive compounds.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Other Flame Retardants - Borates,

Stannates, ...

Other Flame Retardants

A number of other substances show flame retarding effects and are used in commercial appli-
cations. In this chapter we have compiled information on products which are either synergists,
i.e. they enhance the performance of other flame retardants, or which are niche products for
special applications, often with a limited market volume.

the gas phase and are the result of Expandable graphite...
enhancing the radical chain mech-
anism of the halogens. Antimony is manufactured from flake graphite
trioxide is therefore widely used as by treatment with strong acids like
a synergist in halogen containing sulphuric or nitric acid. The acid is
systems. trapped in the crystal layers of the
graphite ("intercalated"). When it
is heated, the graphite starts to ex-
Zinc compounds... pand up to several hundred cm3
per gram, forming a protective layer
were initially developed as smoke for the polymer. Expandable graph-
suppressants for PVC (Zinc hydroxy- ite is used in plastics, rubbers (elas-
stannate). Later it was found that tomers), coatings, textiles and espe-
they also act as flame retardants in cially in polymeric foams. To get
certain plastics mainly by promoting perfect flame retardancy, the use of
char formation. Zinc sulphide synergists like ammonium poly-
shows synergistic effects in PVC phosphate or zinc borate is neces-
and can partly substitute antimony sary. The black colour of graphite
trioxide. limits its applicability in some cases.


containing compounds: A major Nanocomposites...

application of borates is the use of
mixtures of boric acids and borax have been gaining increasing atten-
as flame retardants for cellulose tion since the late 1990s as potential
(cotton) and of zinc borate for PVC new flame retardants. Nanocom-
and other plastics like polyolefins, posites are polymer-layered silicates
elastomers, polyamides, or epoxy based on aluminosilicate clay miner-
resins. In halogen-containing sys- als like montmorillonite, composed
tems, zinc borate is used in con- of layers with gaps (gallery spaces)
junction with antimony oxide, while in between. These silicates have the
in halogen-free systems, it is norm- ability to incorporate polymers.
ally used in conjunction with alu- Flame retardancy work with nano-
minium trihydroxide, magnesium Intumescent... composites has focused on plastics
hydroxide, or red phosphorus. In like polymethyl-methacrylate
some particular applications zinc flame retardant systems expand to (PMMA), polypropylene, polysty-
borate can be used alone. Boron produce foams. They are used as rene, and polyamides. Nanocom-
containing compounds act by coatings not only to protect com- posites particularly prevent dripping
stepwise release of water and bustible materials such as wood and promote char formation.
formation of a glassy coating and plastics, but also steel struc- Therefore, they have been used as
protecting the surface. tures in buildings, because steel synergists in some polymer / flame
loses its strength when exposed to retardant combinations. However,
high temperatures in a fire. The they require special processing and
Antimony trioxide... intumescent effect is achieved by for the time being are not consider-
combining an acid source like am- ed to become viable stand-alone
shows no perceptible flame retar- monium polyphosphate, a source flame retardants.
dant action on its own. Together of carbon, compounds which re-
with halogen containing com- lease non-combustible gases for
pounds like BFRs or PVC it pro- blowing the foam on thermal de-
duces a synergistic effect. The most composition and resin binders to
important reactions take place in stabilise the foam.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Flame Retardants - Health and

the Environment

What are the concerns against using flame retardants?

The main concerns voiced against flame retardants are that they may persist in the environment,
accumulate in living organisms and be detrimental to human health or toxic to wildlife. In ad-
dition, there are concerns about potential decomposition products in case of fire.

furniture and TV sets, and on emis- assessment on a substance which
sions of flame retardants from fur- looks at human health as well as
niture. Please consult the EFRA web- environmental effects. Industry pro-
site ( for vides data on substance properties
detailed information on EFRA and measurements of the sub-
projects. stance at the workplace or in the
environment. Often, specific studies
are commissioned to fill data gaps
What is the difference between haz- for a risk assessment.
ard, exposure and risk? In the first step the rapporteur looks
at the toxicological and ecotoxico-
Hazard expresses the dangerous logical properties of a substance to
property of a substance like corros- determine a safe threshold exposure
ive, flammable or having a certain dose. This is then compared to the
toxicity (e.g. a mean lethal dose of concentrations which are found in
200 mg per kg body weight for rats). the environment or to which hu-
Exposure describes the amount or mans are exposed, either real meas-
concentration of a substance that urements or estimates. The risk is
a human or other organism comes derived both from hazard and expo-
into contact with. Only if the level sure. If the exposure is higher than
of exposure exceeds the safety level the safety level of a substance
of the hazard of the substance, you (determined in laboratory tests)
may expect negative effects, i.e. then a risk is identified. This risk is
there is a significant risk. This in then subsequently managed by the
turn means that you can either authorities and companies involved.
choose less hazardous substances
or reduce the emissions of chemi- The following table provides an
cals from production and proces- overview of the flame retardants
sing sites or from finished articles covered in risk assessments.
in order to reduce a potential risk. Substance Abbreviation
For example, a lion is a very danger- Antimony trioxide ATO
ous animal (when hungry), but if it Short-chain Chlorinated Paraffins SCCP
Medium-chain Chlorinated Paraffins MCCP
is in a cage, then there is no risk (if
Pentabromodiphenyl ether PBDE
How do we deal with these con- you are outside). Octabromodiphenyl ether OBDE
cerns? Decabromodiphenyl ether DBDE
Hexabromocyclododecane HBCD
Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate TCEP
Today, flame retardants are evalua- What is the status of the EU risk Tetrabromobisphenol A TBBPA
ted individually in scientific risk as- assessments on flame retardants? Tris(2-chloroisopropyl) phosphate TCPP
sessments. This factual approach Tris(1,3-dichloroisopropyl)phosphate TDCPP
takes into account the different phy- Risk assessments are carried out 2,2-bis(chloromethyl)trimethylene

sical, chemical and toxicological in the European Union as part of

properties as well as the environ- the regulations on "existing" sub- The current state of risk assess-
mental fate and exposure of each stances, i.e. chemicals which were ments as well as published reports
individual flame retardant. EFRA on the market in the European Un- are available at:
actively participates in these scien- ion before September 1981. Priority chemicals . You find a summary for
tific risk assessments and also lists of high production volume the flame retardants concerned on
sponsors or co-operates in a num- chemicals (> 1 000 tons per year) the EFRA website www.flameretar-
ber of independent studies to ad- are defined by the authorities. One With the introduction of
dress general issues, e.g. on life or two member states then act as REACH (see below), the system of
cycle assessments of flame retarded "rapporteurs" and compile a risk official risk assessments will cease.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

under REACH. This risks draining a very low toxicity or impact on

manufacturing jobs out of Europe human health or the environment.
and nullifying the consumer pro- Others have a certain toxicity as a
tection which REACH is intended neat compound, but once they react
to ensure. into a polymer the effect is no longer
there. The major flame retardants
have been in use for many years
REACH Are flame retardants toxic? now and toxic effects would have
shown up at the workplace in pro-
Actually, that question is put wrong- duction or processing, because
Flame retardants and REACH ly - it should be "how toxic are flame there the exposure is generally high-
retardants?", because only the dose est. Only very few flame retardants
The new EU legislation on chemi- determines if a substance has a were withdrawn from the market,
cals, REACH, currently under debate toxic effect or not. The potential phased out or regulated because of
(2006) will be applicable to flame toxic effects of FRs are low because suspected or proven toxic proper-
retardants exactly as to all other they are, in most applications, either ties, often in combination with very
chemicals sold or used in the Euro- chemically reacted into the material high margins of safety and the pre-
pean Union. All chemicals used in they are used to treat, or physically cautionary principle.
significant quantities in Europe will contained within it and so not able
have to be registered and subject to have significant external effects.
to evaluation and/or authorisation Furthermore, flame retardants are Are any flame retardants banned in
procedures, according to their by no means of particular toxicity the European Union?
properties, involving both chemical compared to other commonly used
suppliers and user industries. chemicals. Since there are so many The Directive 2003/11/EC bans
Because flame retardants are different chemical groups of flame pentabromodiphenyl ether and
designed to be stable in polymers retardants, there are also varying octabromodiphenyl ether in the
or other treated materials over long European Union as of 15-August-
periods (in order to ensure durable 2004. From then on both chemicals
fire protection), they may be subject "may not be placed on the market
to the more stringent testing re- or used as a substance or as a con-
quirements of REACH. For many stituent of substances or of prepa-
flame retardants, this will not rations in concentrations higher
modify the current situation be- than 0,1 % by mass." And "articles
cause EU Risk Assessment studies may not be placed on the market if
are already underway or completed. they, or flame-retarded parts thereof,
contain this substance in concen-
The costs of registration, however, trations higher than 0,1 % by mass."
may mean that it is no longer eco- Please see also the question on
nomic to make some low-volume, WEEE and RoHS.
specialist application flame retar- In the EU, polybrominated biphen-
dants, with significant knock-on types and degrees of interactions yls (= PBBs, banned by 83/264/
effects for user industries, e.g. with living organisms. Even within EEC), tri-(2,3-dibromopropyl)-
plastic components, electronics, a chemical group there can be large phosphate (= TRIS, banned by
for whom key raw materials may differences in toxic effects, because 79/663/EEC) and tris-(aziridinyl)-
thus cease to be available in Europe. depending on the level of molecular phosphineoxide (= TEPA, banned
A particular issue is that imported interaction with cells, small changes by 83/264/EEC) are also not allowed
consumer products or parts will not to a molecule can have huge effects. for clothing and similar products
be subject to the same constraints, Many flame retardants do not have with skin contact. These products
and may contain chemical additives to be labelled as dangerous sub- are no longer manufactured and
not registered for use in Europe stances, which means that they have used in Europe.

Can flame retardants be released ment, a backcoating or a paint.
from consumer products? In many cases the flame retardant
will again be encapsulated within
This is a very important aspect of a resin system which reduces the
assessing a potential health risk likelihood of release.
from flame retardants for consum-
ers. There have been concerns that A study by the German Federal
flame retardants are emitted from Material Testing Institute (BAM,
fabrics or plastic materials, or being Berlin, 2003) looked at emissions
released as dust particles by migra- of common flame retardants from
tion, wear and tear. They might also consumer products to indoor air.
be washed out by water from textiles The test chambers were operated
or leached out by children sucking at realistic temperatures. In many
on furniture or toys. One has to dis- cases they had extreme difficulties
tinguish between three cases here: in even detecting flame retardants It came to the conclusion, that 8 of
in the air. Certain types of flame them were definitely safe to use,
Firstly, if the flame retardant is a retardants were found more often whereas the other 8 required more
so-called "reactive" one, then it than others, mainly due to differ- data before a final conclusion could
chemically reacts with the poly- ences in volatility. However, the be drawn.
mer material or the fabric so that measured concentrations were very
it is chemically bound in the fini- low and well below existing work- Kemmlein S, Hahn O (2003): Emission
of Flame Retardants from Consumer
shed article. Here a release is ex- place exposure limits or threshold Products and Building Materials. Project
tremely unlikely. concentrations of concern. No 299 65 321, Federal Environmental
Secondly, there are "additive" Agency (UBA), Berlin.
flame retardants which are phys- A study by the Fraunhofer Institute National Research Council (2000):
ically mixed into polymers and and TUV Germany looked at con- Toxicological Risks of Selected Flame-
are therefore encapsulated by centrations of commonly used Retardant Chemicals.
polymer. To what extent these are flame retardants in car interiors. Salthammer T, Wensing M (2002): Flame
retardants in the indoor environment Part
released depends on whether they None were detectable inside a 9- IV, Classification of experimental data
migrate to the surface, their vola- month old car under normal use. from house dust, indoor air and chamber
tility, water solubility and use. Under extreme conditions (car tests. Indoor Air 2002 Conference,
Large, heavy molecules or very interior closed and heated to 65C) Monterey, California, Vol. 2, 213-218
water insoluble substances will concentrations were 5 ... 10 times Sagunski H, Rokamp E (2001): Indoor
hardly be released. lower than recommended limits. air orientation values: Tris (2-chlorethyl)-
phosphate. Bundesgesundheitsblatt,
Thirdly there are flame retardants Vol. 45, 300-306
which are applied to the surface The Swiss Federal Health Office
Hartmann P, Brgi D, Giger W. (2004):
of a product such as a textile treat- (BAG, Hartmann 2004) looked at Organophosphate flame retardants and
concentrations of flame retardants plasticizers in indoor air. Chemosphere
in indoor air from a variety of build- Vol, 57. pp. 781-787
ings, finding low levels, 50 ...1 000
times lower than recommended
limits, and concluding the risks
are very low and that no additional
measures have to be taken to
minimise these risks.

The US National Academy of Scien-

ces commissioned a study on the
toxicological risks of 16 commonly
used flame retardants for furniture.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Are flame retardants persistent in

the environment?

Flame retardants require a certain

chemical stability for their function:
most of them are used in polymers
which are processed at tempera-
tures of 200 to 350 C depending
on the polymer. If they were not
sufficiently stable, they would start
to decompose during these proces-
sing steps. Furthermore, flame re-
tardants are generally used in long
living items like e.g. TV sets, compu-
ters, cars, ships, construction pro-
ducts. Therefore, they have to last
and provide fire safety for the whole
life time of the product. Chemical
stability is also an advantage, if you mercial use, only very few are likely How are flame retardants treated
want to recycle polymers, because to accumulate in organisms. How- in European ecolabel schemes?
then the recyclate retains the fire ever, levels observed are very low
retardant properties. Unfortunately, compared to potential toxicity. Ecolabel schemes have been
this necessary chemical stability us- Levels found to date, even for flame devised to promote environmentally
ually relates to stability in the envi- retardants which have been in use friendly products by granting them
ronment, i.e. persistence against for many years, are consistently special labels. These allow the con-
attack by micro organisms, sunlight lower than those indicated by Risk sumer to identify such products
or water. There are, however, some Assessments as posing significant easily. Ecolabel criteria are often
exceptions to this general rule. risks. As EFRA agrees that these defined by environmental agencies
flame retardants like other man- together with interested parties.
made chemicals do not belong in They have no direct legal relevance
Do flame retardants accumulate in the environment, we actively sup- though, i.e. their criteria are not
living organisms? port product stewardship program- binding to any product manufac-
mes to avoid the emissions into the turer. Ecolabels have been most
Substances will generally only bio- environment. successful in product areas where
accumulate if they are well soluble the consumer sees a direct environ-
in fats and hardly soluble in water, mental impact or relevance, e.g.
because water soluble chemicals recycled paper or solvent free paints.
are easily removed from the body The most important ecolabels in
via urine. Furthermore, bioaccumu- Europe are the Blue Angel in Ger-
lative chemicals need to be taken many (one of the oldest schemes)
up by the body from food, water or and the TCO-Label in Sweden. The
air in order to accumulate (resorp- European "EcoFlower" has not
tion). Once taken up, they also need gained wide spread acceptance yet,
to be sufficiently stable and resistant although they have worked out
to biochemical degradation. Only criteria for a number of products.
if these conditions are fulfilled, bio- Some ecolabels like the Blue Angel
accumulation can occur. From the do not allow halogenated flame
various flame retardants in com- retardants (with exceptions) in

housings of E&E Equipment. The of PBDD/PBDF exceeding the limit initiative that reinforces the reduc-
Ecoflower criteria, generally refer to values of the German Chemicals tion of emissions throughout the
a list of risk phrases which are taken Banning Ordinance. Due to their manufacturing process by fostering
from the European classification of chemical structure, the polybromi- a culture of continuous improve-
dangerous substances, and which nated diphenylethers (PBDEs), can ment.
will exclude the use of certain flame- be precursors of PBDF formation.
retardants along with various other However, studies have shown that
products. A number of flame retar- plastics containing decaBDE pro- For more information, see
dants however are subject to none duced after 1993 can undergo sever-
of the relevant health and environ- al recycling loops and still conform
ment risk phrases. Another impor- to the German Chemicals Banning
tant ecolabel in the field of electrical Ordinance. In general it is recom-
and electronic equipment is TCO, mended to treat historical waste
run by a Swedish trade union orga- containing PBDEs in thermal pro-
nisation. They also apply some cesses like feedstock recycling,
restrictions on halogenated flame metal smelters or modern inciner-
retardants, but have recognised the ators. Incineration studies done by
need for fire safety as well. the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe
in Germany have shown that plas-
tics containing brominated flame
What is the situation about flame retardants can be safely added to
retardants and dioxins? state of the art municipal waste
incinerators up to 3 % of the total
In the 1980ies, it was found that feed without increasing the form-
certain halogenated flame retar- ation of dioxins or furans.
dants could react to form polybro-
minated dibenzodioxins (PBDDs)
and dibenzofurans (PBDFs) during What is the industry doing to pre-
their production, processing like vent the release of flame retardants
extrusion or injection moulding, and to the environment?
in case of fire or incineration. Com-
prehensive studies have shown that The BFR industry has engaged in
only very few brominated flame re- a voluntary programme with the
tardants are likely to form amounts supply chain -including Small and
Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)-
aiming at controlling and reducing
industrial emissions of the main
commercial BFRs (deca-BDE,
HBCD, TBBPA) into the environ-
ment. This programme entitled
VECAP (Voluntary Emissions
Control Action Programme) re-
presents advance practice of the
chemical user chain cooperation
which will be required under the
new EU chemicals policy of REACH.
It is a product stewardship industry

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Recycling and Waste Management

of Flame Retardants

Can materials containing flame retardants be safely disposed of with municipal wastes?
Can they be burnt in household waste incinerators?
Yes, they can. Materials which are treated with flame retardants can be handled in municipal
waste incinerators, generating energy. Flame retardants delay and inhibit burning; they do not
make materials incombustible. Therefore, waste incineration is no problem per se.

State of the art incinerators will remove any or physically bound to these, so that leaching
pollutants formed during combustion to the or loss of significant levels of FRs from landfills
required levels: e.g. acids like hydrogen bromide is very unlikely.
or hydrochloric acid from halogenated flame
retardants will be scrubbed from the flue Flame retardants in plastic wastes are also
gasses, phosphorus compounds will primarily compatible with valorisation in metal smelters
remain in the bottom ash as inorganic phos- and recovery of the precious metal and copper
phates together with aluminium oxides from contents of mixed wastes via this route. The
aluminium hydroxide. The very stringent low plastics content partly substitutes coke as a
limit values for dioxins in flue gasses reducing agent, and partly provides smelter
(0.1 ng (TEQ) / m) are met for waste usually feed energy. See studies of valorisation of WEEE
containing appreciable amounts of halogen, plastics published by smelter companies
(i.e. 5 - 8 g Cl / kg from PVC and NaCl). This Umicore and Boliden.
was also shown in studies where plastics waste,
containing brominated flame retardants, was
used together with municipal waste for energy Tange L, Brusselaers J, Hagelken C. (2006): Eco-
recovery without exceeding the dioxin/furan efficient solutions for flame retardant containing,
limit values required. mixed plastics-metals WEEE, in particular resource
Where domestic wastes are sent to landfill, recovery at an integrated metals smelter. Flame
flame retardants will mostly remain within the Retardants 2006 Conference. Interscience. pp.
treated materials, because they are chemically 33-46

of RoHS by the European Commis- cording to the WEEE directive.
sion decision 2005/717/EC. Penta- Therefore, it is extremely difficult
and Octa-BDE are already phased to reach a quality comparable to
out by the marketing and use virgin material. Further, the econo-
directive as of 15 August 2004 mics are under pressure due to
(2003/11/EC). The Directive the scale of the process:
2002/96/EC on Waste Electrical and Mechanical recycling is done in
Electronic Equipment (WEEE) installations up to 15 000 tons
demands a "selective treatment" per year whereas plastics are
for plastic materials and compo- produced in processes of up to
nents of waste electrical and 300 000 tons per year.
electronic equipment which contain For closed loop recycling the
brominated flame retardants. sorting issue is much less severe,
Member States had to transpose because the origin and composi-
WEEE and RoHS into national tion of the plastics is known. Sev-
legislation by August 2004. eral practical examples do exist
like Technopolymer and Ricoh
which mechanically recycle up to
Can plastics containing flame 30% into their new products.
retardants be mechanically Many plastics coming on the
recycled? market which contain FRs are very
suitable for mechanical recycling.
Since flame retardants are
generally more expensive than
the base polymer, flame retarded
plastics have an added value.
Therefore flame retarded plastics
should be recycled to flame retar-
ded types again so that this eco-
We need to make a difference bet- nomical advantage is not lost.
ween closed loop where the produc- Studies on mechanical recycling
er is the owner of the plastic like of ABS containing brominated
copier machines and open loop like flame retardants and polypropyl-
What do the European Directives TV and other equipment used in ene containing ammonium poly-
on electrical and electronic equip- households: phosphate (APP) based flame
ment (WEEE and RoHS) mean for retarded systems have shown
flame retardants? For open loop where all mixed good recyclability:
historical plastics return from the The mechanical recycling of ABS
The Directive 2002/95/EC on the market, mechanical recycling is containing a brominated epoxy
restriction of the use of certain haz- difficult because of the diverse oligomer flame retardant showed
ardous substances in electrical and mixture of plastic materials. It is that the main properties like
electronic equipment (RoHS) says a demanding task to sort plastics thermal and hydrolysis stability
that "Member States shall ensure into individual polymer types like as well as the designed fire safety
that, from 1 July 2006, new electrical PVC, PP, ABS etc. but what makes level were maintained after extrud-
and electronic equipment put on it really challenging are further ing the material four times.
the market does not contain lead, differences in pigments and ad- Polypropylene flame retarded
mercury, cadmium, hexavalent ditives used - not only flame retar- with ammonium polyphosphate
chromium, polybrominated bi- dants but also light stabilizers, (APP) can be recycled up to eight
phenyls (PBB) or polybrominated compounding aides etc. All plas- times and maintains its fire safety
diphenyl ethers (PBDE)." Deca-BDE tics containing Penta-, OctaBDE level (UL94 V0), melt flow proper-
has been exempted from the scope and PBB's must be separated ac- ties and colour stability.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Can flame retardants be chemically ment incinerated in a pilot plant

recycled? for waste combustion is possible
by quenching the flue gases in
There are several examples of chem- water, collecting the hydrogen
ical recycling of plastics containing bromide (HBr) with the option What is the industry doing to
flame retardants: transforming it into elemental prevent the release of flame
bromine as a basis for producing retardants to the environment?
Rigid polyurethane foams con- brominated flame retardants.
aining ammonium polyphosphate The BFR industry has engaged in a
(APP) as a flame retardant can Flame retardants have been voluntary programme with the
be chemically recycled by glycoly- shown to be fully compatible with supply chain -including Small and
sis into a polyol, which can be recovery of waste electronic and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)-
reused as a polyol component. electrical plastics (WEEE) in metal aiming at controlling and reducing
With the exception of a slightly smelters, enabling recycling of industrial emissions of the main
enhanced acid number, no dis- precious metals and copper in commercial BFRs (deca-BDE,
advantages occur during glycoly- circuitry, of antimony in flame HBCD, TBBPA) into the environ-
sis in the presence of APP. retardants, and valorisation of the ment. This programme entitled
plastics content as a reducing VECAP (Voluntary Emissions Con-
A study carried out at ECN Hol- agent replacing use of coke and trol Action Programme) represents
land showed that E&E plastics as an energy source (Umicore advance practice of the chemical
can be treated in a pyrolysis/ gas- Hoboken PlasticsEurope user chain cooperation which will
ification process safely and the EFRA trials 2005) be required under the new EU
bromine can be recovered as HBr. chemicals policy of REACH. It is a
product stewardship industry ini-
Another pilot trial carried out in tiative that reinforces the reduction
Japan by PWMI showed the same of emissions throughout the manu-
results including the bromine re- facturing process by fostering a
covery option. culture of continuous improvement.

Bromine recovery from waste For more information, see

electrical and electronic equip-

Common Abbreviations for Flame Retardants

This table lists common abbrevia-

tions for flame retardants which are Abbr. Name CAS RN
often used in the technical literature.
In addition to these, often trade AP Ammonium phosphates
names are used to denote flame
retardants (just as you say "aspirin" APP Ammonium polyphosphate 68333-79-9
when you in fact mean a headache
pill containing acetylsalicylic acid). ATH Aluminium trihydroxide 21645-51-2
These trade names often also look
like chemical abbreviations. ATO Antimonytrioxide 1309-64-4
However, since these are manufac-
turer specific and quite numerous, BDP Bisphenol-A- bis- diphenylphosphate 5945-33-5, 181028-79-5
we have not included them here.
DBDE Decabromodiphenyl ether 1163-19-5

HBCD Hexabromocyclododecane 25637-99-4

MCPP Medium-chain chlorinated paraffins 85535-85-8

MDH Magnesium hydroxide 1309-42-8

OBDE Octabromodiphenyl ether 32536-52-0

PBDE Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in general

RDP Resorcinol bis-diphenylphosphate 57583-54-7, 125997-21-9

RP Red Phosphorus 7723-14-0

SCPP Short-chain chlorinated paraffins 85535-84-8

TBBPA Tetrabromobisphenol-A 79-94-7

TBP Tri-n-butyl phosphate 126-73-8

TCEP Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate 115-96-8

TCP Tricresyl phosphate 1330-78-5

TCPP Tris (chloroiso-propyl) phosphate 13674-84-5

TDCP Tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate 13674-87-8

TPP Triphenyl phosphate 115-86-6

On you find fact sheets for the major flame retardants.

Flame Retardants Frequently asked Questions

Literature and Further Reading

Ash M., Ash I. (1997): European Union (2003): Simonson M., Blomqvist P., Bodizar
The Index of Flame Retardants. Directive 2003/11/EC of the Euro- A. Mller K., Rosell L., Tullin C.,
Gower. pean Parliament and of the council Stripple H., Sundqvist J. (2000):
of 6 February 2003 amending for Fire-LCA Model: TV Case Study. SP
Bate R. (1997): the 24th time Council directive Swedish Testing Institute.
What Risk? Science, Politics & Pu- 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions
blic Health. Butterworth/ Heine- on the marketing and use of certain Simonson M., Andersson P.,
mann. dangerous substances and prepara- Stripple H., (2000):
tions. Official Journal of the Euro- Fire-LCA Model: Furniture Study.
Bromine Science and pean Union. pp. 42-45 SP Swedish National Testing and
Environmental Forum (2002): Research Institute and IVL Swedish
Bromine: Frequently Asked Ques- European Union (1967): Environmental Research Institute,
tions. Brussels. Council Directive 67/548/EEC of 27 Report 2003: 22.
June 1967 on the approximation of
Brushlinski N., Sokolov S., laws, regulations and administrative Stevens G, Emsley A, Lim L,
Wagner P (2000): provisions relating to the classifi- Williams P (2006):
World fire statistics at the end of cation, packaging and labelling of The benefits of fire counter-
20th century. Brennpunkt Edition. dangerous substance. Official Jour- measures in the UK and Europe
nal P 196. pp. 1-98 from a consideration of UK and
de Wit C. (2002): International fire statistics. Flame
An overview of brominated flame European Union (2003): Retardants 2006 Conference.
retardants in the environment. Directive 2002/95/EC of the Euro- Interscience. pp. 235-247
Chemosphere. pp. 583-624 pean Parliament and of the council
of 27 January 2003 on the restriction Troitzsch J. (2004):
DTI (1999): of the use of certain hazardous Plastics Flammability Handbook.
A Guide to the Furniture and Fur- substances in electrical and Hanser Publishers, Munich.
nishings (Fire Safety) Regulations. electronic equipment. Official ISBN 3-446-21308-2
UK Department of Trade and Journal of the European Union.
Industry. pp. L37/19-23

ECOSA (2001): Grand F., Wilkie C. (2000):

Priorities for consumer safety in Fire Retardancy of Polymeric Websites on flame retardants:
the EU. Agenda for Action ECOSA. Materials. Marcel Dekker.
European Union (2003): Horrocks A., Price D. (2001):
Directive 2002/96/EC of the Fire retardant materials. CRC Press.
European Parliament and of the Websites for fire safety:
Council on waste electrical and National Research Council (2000): (Europe)
electronic equipment (WEEE). Toxicological Risks of Selected (USA)
Official Journal of the European Flame-Retardant Chemicals. (Germany)
Union. pp. L37/24-38 National Academy Press. (France)

EFRA Members

Albemarle Europe Sprl DSM Melamine

Parc Scientifique Einstein Poststraat 1, Sittard
Rue du Bosquet, 9 P O Box 43
B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve NL-6130 AA Sittard
Telephone : +32 10 48 17 11 Telephone : +31 464 77 38 52
Fax : +32 10 48 17 17 Fax : +31 464 77 30 49 Luzenac
Website : Website :
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Telephone : +33 5 615 02 020
Fax : +33 5 615 02 055
Website :
Budenheim Iberica
Extramuros S/N
Eurobrom B.V. ICL-IP
E- 50784 La Zaida Fosfaatweg 48
Telephone : +34 976 17 84 12 NL-1013 BM Amsterdam
Fax : +34 976 17 87 51 Telephone : +31 20 800 58 00 Nabaltec
Website : Fax : +31 20 800 58 05 P O Box 1860
Website : D-92409 Schwandorf
Telephone : +49 9431 530
Fax : +49 9431 53310
Website :

Chemtura Italmatch Chemicals S.p.A.

Tenax Road - Trafford Park Via Pietro Chiesa, 7/13 (Piano 8)
GB-M17 1WT Manchester Torri Piane - San Benigno PCC Rokita
Telephone : +44 161 875 31 15 I-16149 Genova Ul Sienkiewicza 4
Fax : +44 161 8753177 Telephone : +39 010 64208210 PL-56-120 Brzeg Dolny
Website : Fax : +39 010 4695296 Telephone : +48 71 319 25 80
Website : Fax : + 48 71 319 25 50
Website :

Ciba Specialty Chemicals Inc.

CH-4002 Basel Rhodia Consumer
Switzerland Specialities Ltd.
Tel +41 (61) 636 6100 Joseph Storey & Co Ltd PO Box 80
Fax +41 (61) 636 9007 Moor Lane Trinity Street
Website: GB-LA1 1QQ Lancaster UK-West Midlands B69 4LN
Telephone : +44 1524 63252 Telephone : +44 121 541 3720
Fax : + 44 1524 381805 Fax : +44 121 541 3853
Website : Website :

Clariant Produkte (D) GmbH Lanxess Supresta Netherlands B.V.

PA, Business Flame Retardants Leverkussen Bayerwerk Office Park de Hoef
Industriestrasse, Chemiepark Knapsack Building K10 Hoefseweg 1
D-50354 Huerth D-51368 Leverkussen NL-3821 AE Amersfoort
Telephone : +49 2233 48 61 14 Telephone : +49 214 30 27 355 Telephone : +31 33 45 34 580
Fax : +49 2233 412 36 Fax : +49 214 30 55 657 Fax : +31 33 45 34 578
Website : Website : Website :

EFRA - The European Flame Retardants Association

Chemistry making a world of difference

EFRA - January 2007

Responsible Care

EFRA c/o Cefic aisbl

Avenue E. van Nieuwenhuyse 4
B - 1160 Brussels
tel + 32 2 676 72 86
fax + 32 2 676 73 92