Consultation document on proposed risk management for products containing PBDEs: chapter 2

2.1 Summary of Environmental and Human Health Impact Assessments of PBDEs

The Ecological Screening Assessment Report on Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)Footnote 2 and the State of the Science Report for a Screening Health Assessment for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)Footnote 3 were prepared under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). A summary of the final ecological and human health screening assessment reports was published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on July 1, 2006.Footnote 4

The State of the Science Report on the Bioaccumulation and Transformation of Decabromodiphenyl Ether (decaBDE)Footnote 5 was published in August 2010, based on new information that became available after publication of the final PBDE assessment. The report concluded that:

  • decaBDE is not sufficiently bioaccumulative to meet the criteria for bioaccumulation stated in the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations under CEPA 1999; 
  • however, there is sufficient evidence that decaBDE is transforming in the environment to other PBDEs that meet the criteria for virtual elimination.

The outcome of this review and comments received from the public provided justification for the development of additional regulatory controls and the revision of the PBDE Risk Management Strategy.

2.2 Revised Risk Management Objective

As outlined in the revised Risk Management Strategy for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), the risk management objective for all PBDEs assessed under CEPA 1999 is to prevent the introduction of their manufacture in Canada, their import into Canada and to minimize their releases into the environment from all sources in Canada. To accomplish the objective, the revised Risk Management Stategy proposed the use of a multi-instrument approach to minimize releases of PBDEs from all sources to the environment. It proposed to extend existing substance-based controls and implement controls for products containing PBDEs.

The Government of Canada proposes to implement regulations to extend the existing PBDE prohibition to prohibit the use, sale, offer for sale, and import to heptabromodiphenyl ethers (heptaBDE), octabromodiphenyl ethers (octaBDE), nonabromodiphenyl ethers (nonaBDE) and decabromodiphenyl ethers (decaBDE). As a result, the commercial mixture DecaBDE would be prohibited. On February 5, 2013, a separate consultation documentfootnote 6 on the proposed risk management measure for PBDEs, specifically the commercial mixture DecaBDE, was published for a 60-day public comment period. The comments received will be considered in finalizing the risk management measures for these substances.

For products, the approach considers the need for risk management measures that would apply to all products, and includes all seven PBDE groups assessed under CEPA 1999 (see Table 1).

2.3 Overview of Existing Initiatives on PBDEs in Canada

The Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers Regulationsfootnote 7 were made under CEPA 1999 and came into force on June 19, 2008. The regulations prohibit the manufacture of all seven PBDE groups assessed under CEPA 1999 (i.e., tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta-, octa-, nona- and decaBDE) in Canada. The regulations also prohibit the use, sale, offer for sale and import of mixtures, polymers and resins containing tetra-, penta- and hexaBDE.

In Canada, there are no specific controls for PBDEs in products, other than for mixtures, polymers and resins. Annex A provides a sector-by-sector summary of regulations for products containing PBDEs in jurisdictions outside of Canada as well as under international agreements.

2.4 Substance Information

PBDEs are a class of substances that have been used as flame retardants in a wide variety of products. These substances contain an identical base structure, but differ in the number of attached bromine atoms (ranging from 1 to 10). Table 1 shows the seven PBDE groups present on the Canadian Domestic Substances List that have been assessed by Environment Canada and Health Canada.

Table 1: PBDE groups assessed by Environment Canada and Health Canada
CAS No.* Molecular Formula
tetrabromodiphenyl ethers (tetraBDE)
C 12H 6Br 4O
pentabromodiphenyl ethers (pentaBDE)
C 12H 5Br 5O
hexabromodiphenyl ethers (hexaBDE)
C 12H 4Br 6O
heptabromodiphenyl ethers (heptaBDE)
C 12H 3Br 7O
octabromodiphenyl ethers (octaBDE)
C 12H 2Br 8O
nonabromodiphenyl ethers (nonaBDE)
C 12HBr 9O
decabromodiphenyl ethers (decaBDE)
C 12Br 10O

* Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Numbers

PBDEs have generally been sold in three commercial mixtures: PentaBDE, OctaBDE and DecaBDE, each of which contains two or more of the seven PBDE groups. Table 2 shows the typical compositions of these commercial mixtures. Additionally, information on the uses of these commercial mixtures is provided in Section 3.1.

Table 2: Typical compositions of the PBDE commercial mixtures Footnote 8, by PDBE Groups
Commercial Mixtures tetraBDE pentaBDE hexaBDE heptaBDE octaBDE nonaBDE decaBDE

At the end of 2004, production of the PentaBDE and OctaBDE commercial mixtures ceased in the United States, due to a voluntary phase-out by industry. PBDEs have never been manufactured in Canada.

In December 2009, in concert with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Albemarle Corporation, Chemtura Corporation and ICL Industrial Products, which represent two U.S. manufacturers and one U.S. importer of the DecaBDE commercial mixture (containing nona- and decaBDE groups), announced their intention to voluntarily phase out the production of DecaBDE in the United States by 2013.Footnote 9 In 2010, those three companies extended their voluntary commitment to phase out exports of DecaBDE to Canada.Footnote 10

While imports to Canada are declining, DecaBDE could still enter Canada through importation in the following forms:

  • as a chemical formulation;
  • as a component in resins, polymers or substrates;
  • as a component in semi-finished articles, materials or components;
  • as a component made from recycled products; and
  • as a component in finished products.
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