Worldwide ban on flame retardant based on HBCD
Already in May 2013 a United Nation’s conference on chemicals in Geneva (CH) led to a decision taken by representatives from over 160 countries that flame retardant HBCD may no longer be produced or used
Swiss Empa (Materials & Sciencies) has performed extensive research on HBCD, formerly used as flame retardant for plastics, electronics and textiles, particularly for insulation panels in buildings. Empa has contributed substantially to the new regulation of HBCD under the Stockholm Convention on (POP’s) Persistent Organic Pollutants. Obviously, there is a lengthy process before a contaminant is identified as such, and its harmful effects are highlighted with a worldwide ban. This statement is made by Norbert Heeb, chemist in Empa’s Analytical Chemistry Lab. He was involved in uncovering the exact structures of HBSC (hexabromocyclododecane). The closer inspection of the substance evidenced that it consists of a whole group of compounds. Together with researchers from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Eawag ( world’s leading acqua research institute, headquartered in Switzerland) and ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences published several studies showing how HBCD is structured, which forms tend to accumulate in the environment and are considered as persistent POP’s.
Since the 1980s, HBCDs were used as flame retardants for various products, such as plastics, textiles, furniture, electronics and insulation materials. About 20000 t were produced worldwide and annually, mostly for polystyrene panes used for building insulation. Each cubic metre of extruded polystyrene contained up to one kilogramme of HBCDs.
For a long time there has been a reasonable suspicion that HBCDs were environmental toxin harming fish and mammals. HBCDs are sufficiently fat soluble to accumulate along the food chain. They decompose in the environment so slowly that they can be transported over long distances. So far, HBCDs have been detected in the Arctic.
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