SEMA eNews Vol. 15, No. 40, October 4, 2012

Are You Subject to EPA Regulation of Flame Retardant Chemicals Found In Auto Products?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to increase the regulation of flame-retardant chemicals known as polybrominated diphenylether (PBDEs) that are added to plastics and many other materials. PBDEs decrease the likelihood of fires and, once started, slow the chemical reactions that drive oxygen-dependent fires. PBDEs are found in polystyrene, polyurethane foam, wire and cable insulation, electrical connectors and many other materials. They appear in a wide variety of products, including automotive carpets and fabrics and electronic circuit boards. 

The EPA is proposing to effectively phase-out decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) by December 2013. The EPA would also regulate six other chemicals, including octabromodiphenyl ether (octaBDE) and pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE) under the Toxic Substances Control Act’s Significant New Use Rule. This means companies that process the chemicals after 2013 would be required to notify and be subject to EPA approval at least 90 days in advance of producing a new product and, for octaBDE, pentaBDE and decaBDE, conduct health and environmental tests. 

The EPA has expressed concern that these PBDEs may pose liver, thyroid or other human health risks. Although many of the chemicals are no longer manufactured or used in the United States, they still appear in imported products or materials used to produce the goods. As of 2006, California already prohibits the manufacture, distribution and processing of octaBDE and pentaBDE. 

The EPA contends that only one small company will be impacted by its rule. SEMA is seeking to verify that claim with respect to its members. If your company is currently using decaBDE, octaBDE, pentaBDE, tetrabromodiphenyl ether (tetraBDE), hexabromodiphenyl ether (hexaBDE), heptabromodiphenyl ether (heptaBDE) or nonabromodiphenyl ether nonaBDE), or working with products or component parts that may contain any of these chemicals, please contact Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org.