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EPA Evaluates Flame Retardants Including a Safer Substitute for HBCD

Release Date: 09/24/2013
Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn (news media only) Milbourn.cathy@epa.gov 202-564-7849 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON — As part of its ongoing efforts to promote the design and use of safer chemicals, today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft report on alternatives to a flame retardant chemical, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), which has persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic characteristics. The findings in the report can help manufacturers identify safer alternatives to the use of HBCD in polystyrene building insulation.

“While EPA continues to support much needed reform of the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA is taking steps now to address the public’s concern with certain flame retardant chemicals, including making information available to companies to help them make decisions on safer chemicals,” said Jim Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “The conclusions in this report are enabling companies who choose to move away from HBCD to do so with

confidence that the potential for unintended consequences is minimized.”

The Design for the Environment (DfE) Alternatives Assessment draft report, developed with stakeholder and public participation, describes the uses of HBCD with an overview of life cycle and exposure information. The report identifies two viable chemical alternatives for use in polystyrene building insulation, in addition to a list of substances that are not currently expected to be viable. One of the alternatives, a butadiene styrene brominated copolymer, is anticipated to be safer than HBCD and is currently in commercial production in the U.S. Alternative materials are also identified in the report.

In March 2013, as part of a broader effort to address flame retardant chemicals, EPA identified 20 flame retardants for risk assessment under the TSCA work plan. This includes developing full risk assessments on four of these chemicals, including HBCD. EPA will use the information from these full assessments to better understand chemicals with similar structures and characteristics. If EPA identifies potential risks, the agency will evaluate and pursue appropriate risk reduction actions. EPA will begin development of these risk assessments later this year and anticipates making the draft risk assessments available for public comment and peer review in 2014.

To further assist companies in selecting safer chemicals, EPA recently launched ChemView, a web-based tool designed to provide the public and decision-makers with a single access point to a wide array of chemical data, like the results of the HBCD alternatives assessment, that can help companies make decisions on developing and using safer chemicals in the products they manufacture.

A copy of the draft HBCD report can be found at: (
http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/hbcd/about.htm). Information on EPA’s planned risk assessments on flame retardants can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/workplans.html. ChemView can be accessed at: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/chemview/index.html.