Alternatives Assessments for flame retardants in flexible polyurethane foam and printed circuit boards finalized.

Yesterday, EPA released two final Alternatives Assessment reports, for flame retardants used in flexible polyurethane foam and printed circuit boards, as well as a technical correction to an alternatives assessment report on bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper. These reports were developed under the agency’s Design for Environment (DfE) program to characterize chemical hazards and identify safer chemicals, and continue EPA’s scrutiny of flame retardant chemicals.

The final Alternatives Assessment for flame retardants used in flexible polyurethane foam finalizes the draft update, released in June 2014, to a 2005 report on the flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE). PentaBDE was voluntarily phased out by industry in the U.S. in 2004, and is subject to a proposed Significant New Use Rule and section 4 test rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as part of the EPA’s Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) Action Plan. The final report evaluates 19 alternatives, including one non-proprietary mixture and two proprietary mixtures, and covers all upholstered consumer products containing flexible polyurethane foam, including car seats and nursing pillows. In addition, EPA released a document responding to public comments to the draft report [PDF].

EPA also finalized its Alternatives Assessment report for flame retardants in printed circuit boards used in electronic products, like computers and cell phones, and released a response to comments on the 2014 draft report [PDF]. The Alternatives Assessment was published in draft form in December 2014 as an update to a draft first released in 2008. As in the 2014 draft, the final Alternatives Assessment focuses on alternatives to tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA), a commonly used halogenated flame retardant which is also the subject of a recently released TSCA Work Plan Problem Formulation and Initial Assessment. Based on a confidential study and comment submitted following the release of the 2014 draft report, the final Alternatives Assessment changed the skin sensitization designation for magnesium hydroxide from Moderate to Low. Responding to another comment, EPA elaborated on performance testing of halogen-free flame-retardant printed circuit boards, which reportedly “found that the eight halogen-free flame retardant laminates tested generally outperformed the traditional… laminate control.”

The technical correction revises a final Alternatives Assessment report for BPA in thermal paper originally released in January 2014. BPA, a high production volume (HPV) chemical, is commonly used as a developer in thermal paper, like cash register receipts. The correction changes the developmental toxicity designation of one alternative, Pergafast 201, from High to Moderate. The change is based on further analysis of new data submitted in response to the draft report.