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CPSC Discourages Use of Certain Flame Retardants

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is recommending that importers, manufacturers and others take specific actions to protect consumers from the potential toxic effects of exposure to additive, non-polymeric organohalogen flame retardants. This guidance is not a binding or enforceable rule but a ban on the use of OFRs in four categories of consumer goods could be imposed in the future.

OFRs are typically added to foams, textiles and polymers before, during or after production in an effort to improve their resistance to fire. According to the CPSC, scientific evidence demonstrates that OFRs used in non-polymeric, additive form migrate from consumer products, leading to widespread human exposure to mixtures of these chemicals, which pose a risk of a variety of adverse health effects.

In its new guidance, the CPSC encourages manufacturers to eliminate the use of OFRs in children’s products (e.g., durable infant or toddler products, toys and child care articles), upholstered furniture sold for use in residences, mattresses (and mattress pads) and plastic casings surrounding electronics. The CPSC recommends that before purchasing such products for resale, importers, distributors and retailers should obtain assurances from manufacturers that such products do not contain OFRs. The CPSC also recommends that consumers, especially those who are pregnant or with young children, inquire and obtain assurances from retailers that such products do not contain OFRs.

The CPSC has not yet banned OFRs in household products or required precautionary labelling for such products. However, the Commission did vote on 20 September to initiate a rulemaking that could lead to such a ban. The CPSC also directed its staff to convene a chronic hazard advisory panel to further study the effects of OFRs on consumer health.

The American Chemistry Council blasted the CPSC’s actions regarding organohalogen flame retardants, stating in a 20 September press release that “these chemistries have either been reviewed or are subject to review by regulatory agencies in the U.S. and around the world.” According to the industry association, the three CPSC commissioners who voted in favour of the petition failed to “to fully consider the importance of product fire safety” and “also ignored the recommendations of their scientific staff.” ACC further noted in a 28 September statement that the Commission’s guidance on organohalogen flame retardants is “misguided and could jeopardise the safety of products in the future.” The association intends to contact the affected manufacturing sectors and businesses to stress the voluntary nature of the guidance and urge companies to fully consider all aspects of product safety, including fire safety, before they make any decisions.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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