Consultation document on proposed risk management for products containing PBDEs: chapter 3

3. Uses of Products Other than Mixtures, Polymers and Resins Containing PBDEs

3.1 Current Uses

In general, plastics are the primary end-use for flame retardants, including PBDEs, due to the inherent flammability of many plastics. Consequently, PBDEs have seen widespread use in electrical and electronic goods, transportation, textiles and construction products.

As outlined below, there are substantial differences in the historic use patterns of the three commercial mixtures, i.e., PentaBDE, OctaBDE and DecaBDE.

PentaBDE Commercial Mixture

  • The PentaBDE commercial mixture was primarily used in polyurethane resins, particularly foams. The downstream industries that employed such products were primarily the users of polyurethane foams (PUFs) containing flame retardants, including manufacturers of furniture and bedding, moulded and slab foams for automotive parts, carpets and rugs with polyurethane underlay, and building construction foam.

OctaBDE Commercial Mixture

  • The OctaBDE commercial mixture was primarily used in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) resins. The downstream industries that used ABS containing OctaBDE were manufacturers of electrical and electronic products. These resins were used for computer housings, appliances, automotive parts and communications equipment.

DecaBDE Commercial Mixture

  • The three largest manufacturers of DecaBDE to Canada have voluntarily ceased exports to Canada; however DecaBDE may potentially be present in a variety of imported products, or products currently in use.
  • Primary uses of the DecaBDE mixture are as an additive to plastics and other resins, as coatings on textiles, and as an additive to sheeting on cables. In turn, these uses have been linked to other uses in the electronics/electrical, textiles, transportation, and construction/industrial sectors. Examples of applications where DecaBDE may still be used are provided in Annex B.

A move away from DecaBDE towards alternative flame retardants and, in certain cases, flame-retardant barriers in products, in lieu of chemicals, means that many of the applications listed in Annex B no longer use DecaBDE, especially in view of the phase-out in the United States and the broad controls proposed in other jurisdictions.

In 2005, a PBDE technical and socio-economic report estimated that electronic enclosures (housings and casings made of high-impact polystyrene [HIPS]) accounted for approximately 80% of DecaBDE use, with textile applications accounting for 10-20%.Footnote 11 In recent years, however, there has been a shift in the use profile for this substance: manufacturers of electronics and mattresses have moved to alternative flame retardants, based in part on the impact of the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (EU RoHS) for the use of certain substances, and the impact of regulations established in a number of U.S. states.

Indications are that the most widespread remaining uses of DecaBDE are in transportation, textiles, electrical and electronic equipment, and construction/industrial (e.g., new uses such as plastic shipping pallets).

3.2 Alternatives

While PBDEs have been used for a wide array of applications, a variety of alternatives are being used as replacements, such as other brominated flame retardants and halogen-free flame retardants. Currently, the use of flame-retardant barriers and substituting traditional materials with inherently fire-resistant materials are considered viable alternatives. Furthermore, work is currently underway under the U.S. EPA's Design for the Environment program to assess the hazards posed by these alternative chemicals. The results of this exercise are expected later in 2013.Footnote12

In this consultation process, Environment Canada is seeking comments on viable alternatives for remaining uses of products containing PBDEs.

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