ECHA identifies certain brominated flame retardants as candidates for restriction
ECHA has released its Regulatory Strategy for Flame Retardants, identifying aromatic brominated flame retardants as candidates for an EU-wide restriction. This would minimise the exposure of people and the environment to these persistent, potentially bioaccumulative and toxic substances.
Helsinki, 15 March 2023 – Aromatic brominated flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are generally persistent in the environment. Many, like decabromodiphenylether, are also known or suspected of being toxic and accumulating in people and animals. Their release could be minimised through an EU-wide restriction.
Before a potential restriction proposal, some preparatory work is required. This work could include an assessment of the waste stage to find out if hazardous substances are released when products containing flame retardants are dismantled, recycled, or disposed of. It could also include an assessment of the availability of suitable alternative substances or materials.
The restriction scope could cover all aromatic brominated flame retardants that are confirmed or will be confirmed to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) through harmonised classification or identification as substances of very high concern (SVHCs).
For many aliphatic brominated and some organophosphorus-based flame retardants, more data is needed to determine if a restriction is necessary. These data are expected to be available from 2024 onwards, and ECHA suggests reassessing the situation for those groups in 2025.
No regulatory action is recommended for several non-halogenated subgroups of flame retardants, including certain organophosphorus-based flame retardants, since no or low hazard was identified at this time. For chlorinated flame retardants, regulatory measures are already in place or initiated.
REACH restrictions can be initiated by EU Member States or by the European Commission who can request ECHA to prepare a restriction proposal.
The strategy covers ECHA’s assessment of regulatory needs for halogenated (including brominated) and organophosphorus flame retardants, which make up around 70 % of the organic flame retardants market. The strategy was announced in the Restrictions Roadmap under the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.
The strategy identifies flame retardants, their potential hazards and information gaps. It aims to avoid regrettable substitution through grouping and gives companies more predictability through increased transparency of potential regulatory actions. Flame retardants other than halogen or organophosphorus-based will continue to be assessed in future assessments of regulatory needs (ARNs).