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Textile Flame Retardants...Green Chemistry

Demand for greener, healthier flame retardants continues to grow

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Environmentally Friendly Flame Retardants

Regulations, consumer demand, and innovation are inspiring manufacturers to design more environmentally friendly flame retardants. As Kellyn Betts reports in Environmental Science & Technology 9/26/07, the industry is responding with new approaches for making flame retardants, and some designs are based on new "green chemistry" principles. In the long run, the work now under way could result in the development of materials that are inherently resistant to fire.

Computers, bedding and even airplanes depend on flame retardants for safety of consumers.

Amherst scientists were funded through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) project with the goal of identifying new chemicals and materials that burn slowly enough to provide passengers with 10 minutes of escape time. "This is an environmentally friendly solution with a lot of economic potential," says Richard Lyon, manager of FAA's fire research program.

The FAA Research Project: Fire Research

Legislation is driving some of the move away from halogenated flame retardants. The use of Deca BDE-the only PBDE formulation still used widely-is being challenged in the EU. Deca BDE was also recently banned in Washington and Maine, and legislatures in other states, including California, are also considering bills to ban the compound.

"One of the big issues with halogenated materials is the formation of dioxins under poor burning conditions," such as when electronics products are "recycled" via outdoor burning in the developing world, explains Lauren Heine, a consultant and former director of applied science at the Green Blue Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on sustainable design. Some producers of flame retardants complain that it is unfair for them to be pushed away from halogenated flame retardants because of others' illegal activity, but the electronics manufacturers "do think that you need to look at the less desirable scenarios, such as open burning," points out Kathleen Vokes, project manager for the U.S. EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) program.


Although the demand for halogen-free flame retardants continues to grow, most bromine used in the world today still goes into flame retardants, according to the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum, an industry group.


Flame retardants from

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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