Frank Kuebart, eco-INSTITUT Germany, presented a comparison of criteria concerning flame retardants in 65 ecolabels and sustainability standards worldwide. Key health and environment criteria for flame retardants are:
- Low toxicity, not irritant
- Not persistent or bioaccumulative
- Avoid migration from products into indoor air (lower molecular weight FRs are detected at low levels in indoor air, notably TCPP which has a relatively high vapour pressure)
- Limit soot and smoke toxins susceptible to pose health risks particularly for fire professionals
- End-of-life and recycling
Consequently, in addition to general exclusion of chemicals with problematic properties (CMR, PBT, vPvT …), a number of different labels exclude halogenated or brominated flame retardants (Blue Angel, LEED (US Green Building Council), TCO.
Dr Kuebart noted that both TCO and LEED are moving towards a positive list approach, in addition to excluding certain types of chemicals (e.g. halogenated). These positive lists are based on simplified assessment tools such as Green Screen (see pinfa Newsletter n°41), the Healthy Building Network Pharos Project, or HPDs Collaborative (Health Product Declaration).
The continuing development of PIN flame retardants which offer improved health and environment profiles and can achieve these positive lists will open new markets for passive fire safety.
Two eco-labels (Eco-INSTITUT and Natureplus) also exclude all organophosphorus FRs.This shows the need to open dialogue with NGOS and scientists to define positive safety and acceptability criteria for PIN FRs, in particular for organophosphorus FRs which have very varied and different properties. This dialogue should also address the safety of PIN FRs in recycling.