Danes urge brominated flame retardant limits

EPA launches action plan to reduce or ban the use of environmentally persistent PBBs, PBDEs

Denmark yesterday became the latest country to announce measures to limit or ban the use of brominated flame retardants with the publication of an action plan targeting what it calls the most "troublesome" substances, initially PBBs and PBDEs.

The environmental protection agency (EPA) said action at EU and international level was crucial, however, as "the greatest use is in imported goods such as computers, televisions and cars".

EPA director Steen Gade said in a statement: "Although our current understanding of the health effects of PBBs and PBDEs is incomplete, application of the precautionary principle is highly relevant." What particularly concerned the EPA was the persistence of these substances in the natural environment, he added.

Mr Gade also urged the EU to take action as quickly as possible in order to "reduce and ultimately eliminate the longer-term risk". The agency is to launch an information campaign this year directed primarily at retailers but also at consumers. Other measures include government support for research and development of alternative compounds, and a strengthening of voluntary agreements in relevant sectors. The plastics industry has been working with the EPA on the problem since last December.

All concerned concede that it is hard to identify products containing the retardants. "The retailers cannot advise consumers because typically they just don't know," Lisbeth Seedorf of the EPA told Berlingske Tidende newspaper today.

Retail industry spokesman Ole Wernberg said: "Actually, it's easier than that - to the best of my knowledge, the customers simply cannot buy such appliances without brominated flame retardants. But I don't think this is going to be such a big problem.... New technology means less generation of heat in these appliances, fewer circuit boards, and therefore less risk of fire or need for flame retardants."

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00, and the action plan.

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