Flame retardants

Learn about flame retardants

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About flame retardants

Flame retardants are made up of various types of chemicals and may be found in or applied to products available in Canada. They're used to help prevent items from catching on fire and to limit the spread of fire.

Examples of products that may contain flame retardants include the following:

  • household items, such as:
    • appliances
    • electronics
  • polyurethane foam products, such as:
    • mattresses
    • pillows and cushions
    • upholstered furniture
    • children's toys and foam products

They may also be found in construction and renovation products, such as:

  • paints and coatings
  • spray foam insulation
  • lubricants and greases
  • construction foam boards
  • adhesives, glues and sealants
  • foam products used for waterproofing

Safety of flame retardants

Under Canada's Chemicals Management Plan, we review and manage the potential risks that chemical substances can pose to people in Canada and to the environment. The first stage of the review process is a draft chemical risk assessment.

Not all flame retardants pose a risk to health or the environment at current levels of exposure. However, as a result of recent draft chemical risk assessments, Canada is proposing that a number of flame retardants may pose a health risk.

In the latest draft assessment, we looked at 10 flame retardants:

  • TEP
  • IPPP
  • TPHP
  • BPDP
  • IDDP
  • TEHP
  • BEHP
  • TBOEP
  • TDBDPB
  • BDMEPPP

We are proposing that IPPP and TEP may be harmful to health at levels of exposure considered in the assessment, specifically:

IPPP

  • A potential concern was identified for infants and children from lying on foam-containing mattresses or furniture containing IPPP.
  • IPPP is associated with reproductive effects and effects on the adrenal glands (which produce hormones necessary for the regulation of your stress, metabolism, blood pressure and immune system) and the liver (which secretes hormones to control body chemical functions).

TEP

  • A potential concern was identified for infants, and children from sitting in infant or child restraint seats containing TEP, as well as concern for all age groups from lying on foam-containing mattresses or furniture containing TEP.
    • TEP is associated with effects on the liver.

We are also proposing that IPPP, TPHP, BPDP, BDMEPPP and IDDP may be harmful to the environment.

In draft assessments published in October 2020, we also proposed that other flame retardants may be harmful to people's health. At levels of exposure considered in the assessments, specifically:

TCPP

  • A potential concern for all ages was identified from prolonged skin contact with items such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, mattress toppers, and other foam-based products containing TCPP.
    • may have reproductive and developmental effects.

TDCPP

  • A potential concern for all ages was identified from prolonged skin contact with items such as such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, mattress toppers, and other foam-based products containing TDCPP.
    • may cause cancer and may also have non-cancer effects on the kidneys and testes.

Melamine

  • A potential concern for children was identified from prolonged skin contact with upholstered furniture, mattresses, mattress toppers, and other foam-based products containing melamine.
    • may cause cancer and may also have non-cancer effects on the urinary system.

We are also proposing that TCPP, TDCPP and melamine are not harmful to the environment.

What we're doing

Our draft assessments are not yet final. We are continuing to evaluate the potential risks posed by these flame retardants before we publish our final conclusions. This includes:

  • tracking new information on exposures or hazards
  • asking the public to comment on our draft assessments and proposed risk management
  • reviewing and using this information to help shape our final assessments

If the final assessments confirm these proposed health findings for IPPP, TEP, TCPP, TDCPP and melamine, we will consider:

  • taking action to reduce the exposure of infants, toddlers and/or all other age groups to these substances from certain products made with foam, such as:
    • upholstered furniture, mattresses, mattress toppers, infant/child restraint seats and other foam-based products where there's prolonged skin contact

In past years, Canada has taken action to limit exposure to other flame retardants that were found to pose health risks. We prohibited the manufacture, import, use and sale of the following products:

  • clothing containing tris(2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate [TRIS] in 1977
  • products made with polyurethane foam containing ethanol, 2-chloro-, phosphate (3:1) [TCEP] and intended for children under 3 years of age in 2014

What you can do

You are reminded to:

  • replace or repair damaged covers on products that contain foam, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and mattress toppers
  • follow the manufacturer's directions for using, storing and disposing the product safely
  • contact the manufacturer if you're not sure if your product contains flame retardants of concern
  • comment on our draft assessment during the 60-day public comment period

If you're exposed to flame retardants at work, talk to your employer and occupational health and safety (OHS) official about:

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