Post-doctoral position

Developing mathematical models for studying emissions and fate of halogenated flame retardants indoors.  A two-year Experienced Researcher (ER) (postdoctoral fellow) position is offered in the FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) “Indoor Contamination with Flame Retardant Chemicals: Causes and Impacts” (INFLAME). INFLAME will further understanding of how and to what extent flame retardant (FR) chemicals used in every-day materials enter humans and determine the risk to health that such exposure presents. This enhanced understanding will inform assessment of risk associated both with recent and current-use FRs, and of those under development, and ultimately lead to more sustainable approaches to meeting fire safety regulations. INFLAME aims to discover:

  1.  the mechanisms via which FRs migrate from products within which they are incorporated;
  2. how and to what extent such migration leads to human exposure; and
  3.  the effects of such exposure.

In this project, focus is placed on using mathematical models to study the fate of such chemicals in the indoor environment.  For more information about INFLAME and the different ESR and ER positions available, see http://www.inflame.bham.ac.uk.

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Halogenated FR: Do the Fire Safety Benefits Justify the Health and Environmental Risks?

writed by: Arlene D. Blum  and Linda Birnbau, pdf format: please click here

2nd International Conference on Flame Retardants

15 – 16 May 2011, Guangzhou, China

In the light of the recovery of world economy and flame retardant markets, the 2nd International Conference on Flame Retardants: Requirements, Challenges and Innovations will give a comprehensive overview of the drivers regarding new developments in fire safety, flame retardants, and advanced applications in the key technologies of building industry, transportation, electrical engineering and electronics (E&E) sectors. The main drivers are the growing international demand for flame retarded products as a consequence of more stringent fire safety and environmental requirements, and new approaches to sustainability (electro mobility and photovoltaics, green electronics, adapted flame retardants). The conference aims at helping all those involved in the fire safety of polymers to identify the main changes and trends on the flame retardants markets and to develop adequate strategies for today and tomorrow.

(Source: Click here)

European Parliament gets tough on WEEE directive

The European Parliament is tightening up on electronic waste policies, adding new pieces of legislation to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive. It has voted for tougher regulations on the disposal of electronic trash, requiring each country to collect 4kg of e-waste per citizen by 2012, and to process 85 percent of all electronic waste by 2016. According to TCO Certified, the E-waste stream is growing at a rate three times faster than the overall waste stream. The organisation said that researchers estimate that the amount of global E-waste will be close to 73 billion kg annually by 2015. The fact that only a fraction of the E-waste produced today is recycled responsibly adds to the problem. Computers and office electronics account for 40 percent of lead and 70 percent of heavy metals, including mercury and cadmium, in landfills.  It said this shows not only how polluting these products are but also what a waste of resources it is, according to the Basel Action Network the average PC contains up to 27 different kinds of metals of various hazardousness. Many of these metals are scarce and getting more and more difficult and expensive to mine. Before the WEEE directive was put into force in 2008,  both manufacturers and countries would export their electronic waste illegally to third world countries, where it was disposed of in unsafe ways.  Now the European Parliament has decided that it wants a higher collection target and a separate reuse target. Both were pushed through after delays from October with a majority of 580 votes to 37.

In addition MEPs recommend a 50-75 percent recycling target, and suggested a separate re-use target, initially set at five percent. They also addressed the problem of large volumes of e-waste being falsely declared as ‘reusable’ and illegally exported to developing countries. To ensure these shipments are reduced, they want stricter inspections of deployments, as well as ensuring the exporter should carry the burden of proof that the goods are actually reusable.
According to Emma Sjögren at TCO Certified, this is especially important as these products contain halogenated substances and chemicals and materials containing chlorine and bromine are causing concern in developing countries without recycling facilities today. Uncontrolled Incineration of brominated and chlorinated compounds forms other compounds such as dioxins and furans, many of them highly toxic and, for example, carcinogenic.

Many of these substances are known to have serious health and environmental effects (most substances are not yet tested). Brominated flame retardants have been used for over 30 years to prevent the ignition of a material and limit the spread of fire,” she told TechEye.

“The purpose of flame retardants is to provide protection throughout the product lifecycle. Therefore, they are deliberately constructed not to degrade meaning that once in the environment they persist, often transported by air and water far away from the initial point of pollution.

She added that it was primarily when the IT products were scrapped that problems arise. “The substances containing bromine and chlorine leak out and, because their degradability is poor, they remain in the environment for a long time,” she said. “Only a small proportion of the world’s electronic goods are reused in a controlled way – for example, large numbers of end-of-life products are shipped to Asia or Africa where they are burned in backyards without any protective equipment – so this is a major and growing problem.”

TCO added that as long as these chemicals were used, and the recycling of electrical products are not controlled, the quantities of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants in the environment will increase. “Even if their use were discontinued today, they would remain in the environment long into the future,” Emma added. Ref: (Click here)

The Utility of Nanocomposites in Fire Retardancy

Materials 2010(Download article free, click here): Abstract:  Nanocomposites have been shown to significantly reduce the peak heat release rate, as measured by cone calorimetry, for many polymers but they typically have no effect on the oxygen index or the UL-94 classification. In this review, we will cover what is known about the processes by which nanocomposite formation may bring this about. Montmorillonite will be the focus in this paper but attention will also be devoted to other materials, including carbon nanotubes and layered double hydroxides. A second section will be devoted to combinations of nanocomposite formation with conventional (and unconventional) fire retardants. The paper will conclude with a section attempting to
forecast the future.

Fireproof clothing

NASA contracted with Celanese Corp., a producer of chemicals and advanced materials founded in New York, to develop a line of heat- and flame-resistant PBI textiles that could be used in space suits and vehicles. The stiff fibers had virtually no melting point, and could retain both strength and flexibility after exposure to flame. The fabric was also resistant to mildew, abrasions and chemicals.

During the 1970s and 1980s, PBI was instrumental to NASA’s spaceflight program, and the material was used extensively on Apollo, Skylab and numerous space shuttle missions. PBI fibers were used in astronaut flight suits, clothing, and on tethers and other gear that required extreme thermal tolerance and durability.

In 1977, Carl Marvel was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Ronald Reagan. In 1978, the textile was incorporated into fire service in the U.S., and in 1983, PBI fibers were made commercially available.

PBI fabrics have since found countless military and civilian uses: lightweight, flame-resistant PBI fabrics provide protection for firefighters and U.S. Army troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. PBI fibers were also introduced for use in automotive braking systems and provide a fire-blocking layer in aircraft seats.

The fire retardant material is still widely used in the aerospace industry, but PBI is also finding uses in new fields that demand stability at high temperatures. Interestingly, the polymer that made its debut in space during the Apollo program was under consideration for use as insulation material in the motors of the Ares I and Ares V rockets under NASA’s now-canceled Constellation Program. (Ref: Click here)

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