As a part of the EU-funded ENFIRO project (see pinfa Newsletter n°36), a life cycle assessment of use of flame retardants in electronics was carried out. The summary conclusions have now been peer-reviewed and published. Five PIN FRs and three brominated FRs were assessed, as used in five different polymers in laptop computer components. The assessment takes into account the full cradle-to-grave cycle of the laptop, including production, computer use, accidental fires and waste disposal.
The largest differences in impact were identified in the study “in the waste phase, due to an increased dioxin emission formed out of brominated FRs during improper waste treatment”. The study also identifies, in the assessed conditions, a higher impact from the studied brominated FRs during accidental fires “due to a higher rate of smoke formation and a higher terrestrial ecotoxicity”. These results illustrates the need for a proper waste treatment of WEEE materials.
Figure: Environmental impact for accidental combustion of a laptop with brominated or PIN flame retardants. Note the risk of fire occurring is not taken into account here and no comparison is made to a laptop without flame retardants.
PIN FRs studied: Aluminium diethylphosphinate (Alpi) + melamine polyphosphate (MPP), 9,10Dihydro‐9‐oxa‐10‐phosphaphenanthrene (DOPO), Zinc hydroxystannate (ZHS) coated aluminium hydroxide (ATH), Resorcinol bis(diphenyl phosphate) (RDP), Bisphenol A bis(diphenylphosphate (BDP). Brominated flame retardants studied: DecaBDE, TBBPA, Brominated polystyrene.
“Life cycle assessment of flame retardants in an electronics application”, International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (Springer), N. Jonkers et al., 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007%2Fs11367-015-0999-z
ENFIRO (Life Cycle Assessment of Environment-Compatible Flame Retardants) www.enfiro.eu