Flame Retardant Additives in Polymers: When do the Fire Safety Benefits Outweigh the Toxicity Risks?

Polymer Green Flame Retardants

Abstract

Historically, there have been three primary considerations in the use of flame retardant (FR) additives for polymers: (1) Will it improve the fire performance of the polymer? (2) Does the formulation with the FR additive included maintain acceptable mechanical properties and appearance? (3) Is the cost acceptable? In recent years, it has become clear that a fourth factor must be considered: (4) Does the FR additive introduce unacceptable toxic products into the environment, the food supply, humans, or animals? Thus, it is clear that benefit–harm assessment must now be incorporated into proposals for using FR materials. In addition to the fire safety benefits, the levels of human and animal exposure and the potential health or environmental harm that may ensue should be considered. This chapter considers both the potential benefit and harm of FR chemicals across their life cycle. Three cases of FR additives in furniture, thermal insulation, and plastic television housings are used to exemplify strategies to weigh fire safety benefits against health and environmental harm. It also offers some guidance on moving to alternative strategies that maintain fire safety without creating toxicity problems.

 

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