Danish flame retardant action plan published

EPA promotes international action, development of non-brominated substitute compounds

International regulation and the promotion of substitutes are the two main elements of a Danish draft action plan on brominated flame retardants (BFRs), published earlier this month. Support for cleaner technology and development of substitute flame retardants are also covered in the plan, to be adopted after a formal hearing period ends on 15 June.

As forecast, the plan stresses the importance of international regulation of harmful BFRs since most Danish use occurs in imported goods. Production of one of the two most controversial varieties, PBB, is due to cease in OECD countries this autumn under the terms of a 1995 voluntary industry commitment.

The Danish draft strategy breaks new ground by suggesting that all three types of PBDE in commercial use - penta-BDE, octa-BDE and deca-BDE should also be phased out, rather than just penta-BDE. Brominated flame retardant manufacturers say this would not be environmentally justified (ENDS Daily 6 March).

The final plan will take into account the results of two studies due for completion in mid-May assessing environmental and health impacts of other brominated flame retardants and possible alternatives. These could form the basis for voluntary agreements with manufacturers on a national level, officials say. The draft leaves open for the time being a decision on the most common Danish flame retardant, tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), which accounts for 55% of all usage.

Greenpeace Denmark has welcomed Denmark's early planning on BFRs, but a spokesperson criticised it for proposing action against substances that were "already on the way out, while failing to move at the speed that could be realistically achieved on others," notably TBBPA. Industry sources, however, question whether there are alternatives for printed board circuits, where TBBPA is mainly used, as well as whether there is an environmental case to answer.

In its examination of wider alternatives, the EPA says it is particularly interested in inorganic rather than other halogenated, substances. It will also assess whether it would be more beneficial to use alternative forms of plastic. Up to DKr4m (euros 537,000) will be made available to companies to help develop alternatives.

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00; Greenpeace Nordic, tel: +45 33 93 86 60. See also the {draft plan}

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