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EPA seeks alternate flame retardant for PS building insulation

By: Jeremy Carroll

September 24, 2013

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft rule looking for safer alternatives to the flame retardant chemical hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) in polystyrene building insulation.

The report was developed with input from stakeholders from business, government, academia and environmental organizations, EPA said. The report said there are only two viable flame retardant alternatives to HBCD for use in expanded and extruded PS foam insulation under current manufacturing processes.

EPA is looking at alternatives to HBCD because the chemical has “persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic characteristics,” the agency said.

EPA points to one particular alternative, a butadiene styrene brominated copolymer, that is anticipated to be safer than HBCD and is currently in commercial production in the United States.

“Due to its large size, lack of low molecular weight components, and un-reactive functional groups, human health and ecotoxicity hazard for this copolymer are measured or predicted to be low,” the report said. “Its long-term behavior in the environment is not currently known. Chemical suppliers have commercialized this copolymer, and polystyrene manufacturers are testing the copolymer in their products to ensure that the polystyrene will meet all performance standards.”

The other alternative suggested is a tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA)-bis brominated ether derivative.

“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 in a statement. “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 public comment period is open until Nov. 22.