Adrian Beard (pinfa) summarised policy and stakeholder trends impacting flame retardant chemical selection in Europe and in North America. The EU Green Deal and its Chemical Strategy for Sustainability will greatly accentuate sustainability requirements for flame retardants in Europe, accelerating bans of chemicals with health or environment questions, introducing new Hazard classes, requiring information on LCA and recycling, introducing registration or declaration of all polymers and with possible regulatory “grouping” of flame retardants. A study for Cefic (Ricardo et al. 2021) suggests that nearly a third of current chemicals turnover could be banned or restricted. pinfa has commissioned a study showing that “grouping” of phosphorus FRs is partly possible, but with significant differences between several classes, and need to take into account exceptions (see pinfa Newsletter n°142). In the USA, actions against FRs by some States continue to develop, often without clear targeting, resulting in a patchwork of unstable and evolving restrictions in some States for some applications and an overall negative image of flame retardants. There is a general trend to continue to further restrict halogenated FRs across North America, for example the current proposal to ban DBDPE (Decabromodiphenyl ethane = Dechlorane plus) in Canada.
Micaela Lorenzi, Green Chemicals (pinfa member), compared recent developments in PIN and halogenated flame retardants for engineering polymers. The global market for flame retardants is around 2.2 million tonnes/year, growing 3% annually. Today, only around one third of global FR volumes are halogenated/ATO and there is growing regulatory pressure and scientific health and environment concerns about halogenated flame retardants. Prices of both brominated and some PIN flame retardants have increased significantly over the last year, in particular for phosphorus FRs. Challenges for PIN flame retardants compared to halogenated are generally considered to include the need for higher loadings, thermal stability and higher prices, but differences are being reduced as PIN FR technologies evolve. Challenges in recycling, where breakdown of FRs can release acids or radicals, can be addressed by specific additives and co-polymers. Polymeric phosphorus PIN FRs, such as polyphosphonates, offer advantages, and synergy with other PIN FRs (melamine compounds, Depal), but application is specific to different polymers.
Markus Kemmler, Kemmler Consulting (see also interview below), presented different fire resistance specifications for cables in Europe and in the USA, and relevant testing methods. The Construction Products Regulation is now the reference in Europe. Specifications are harmonised, but the level of performance required varies between different Member States’ building regulations. An incoherence is that CPR and Building Regulation requirements do not apply to cables in machinery in buildings, only to fixed cables and wiring. The tendency in Europe is towards HFFR (Halogen Free Flame Retardant) cables. Fire safety challenges are to ensure continuity of functioning of the cable in fire (transmission of energy or of communications signals), to ensure that cables cannot spread fire between different building compartments, and to limit fire risk as quantities of cables accumulate in buildings over time. Another challenge for industry is that different testing labs often generate different test results for the same cable, depending on cable diameter, sample provided (batches are not necessarily fully homogenous) but also on laboratory set up and staff implementation of test procedures. Reliability of CPR testing has however been improved, and is now generally better than other tests.