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NAFRA Comments on Draft Rule in Washington State

Proposal to Regulate Flame Retardants May Significantly Impact Consumers and Businesses in Washington State

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Erich Shea
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WASHINGTON (December 9, 2022) — The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) issued the following statement in response to proposed restrictions and reporting requirements from the Washington State Department of Ecology (Department of Ecology) with respect to the use of organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) in casings and enclosures of electronic and electrical equipment. The proposal is part of Safer Products for Washington – Cycle 1.

“The Department of Ecology’s Safer Products for Washington proposal goes far beyond any other product safety regulation in place at the state, federal, or international level by restricting the use of OFRs in casings and enclosures of electronic and electrical equipment intended for indoor use. The proposal also creates an onerous and ambiguous reporting requirement for manufacturers of electronic and electrical equipment intended for outdoor use that contain OFRs in the casing or enclosure. In both cases, the ability to apply OFR chemistries to a wide variety of electronic products could be jeopardized. NAFRA continues to raise concerns with the direction and language of the Safer Products for Washington proposal and the Department of Ecology’s regulatory approach.

“Public health risks posed by fire remain a concern for Washington State. In 2021, there were more than 5,000 house fires in the state, resulting in more than $200 million in property losses. In the span between 2008 and 2017, there were 581 fire-related fatalities to Washington State residents, with the second leading cause reported as “electrical related,” including misuse of electrical equipment, improperly installed wiring, overloaded circuits, or misuse of electrical extension cords.

“Flame retardants are used to reduce fire risks and meet product safety standards. One of the most important benefits of flame retardants in product design is that they can help stop small ignition events from turning into larger fires. This can reduce the risk of a fire spreading and may provide more time for people to escape and more time for emergency personnel to respond.1

“NAFRA’s recommendations to improve the regulatory program include the following:

  • Greater consideration should be provided for product design requirements. Simple substitution is not always possible as OFRs may be the only option in meeting performance requirements for some products. Even if a redesign of the product is possible, recertifying it is a time-consuming process that often takes years.
  • An improved alternatives assessment approach is needed, with the same criteria for evaluating both OFRs and identified alternatives. The current assessment approach restricts the use of several OFRs despite them meeting the Department of Ecology’s threshold criteria for safety.
  • The regulatory scope is overly broad and should be narrowed. Washington State’s draft rule fails to distinguish between individual OFR chemistries or even provide a comprehensive list of covered products for either indoor or outdoor use. Electronic and electrical equipment is a product category with complex supply chains, and additional clarity is needed.

“Any regulations should also seek to align with relevant federal and international rules. Otherwise, consumers and manufacturers face a confusing landscape of inconsistent and overlapping regulations that may affect the availability of electronic and electrical products. The regulatory proposal also ignores recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences that caution against regulating OFRs as a single class due to their wide and unique varieties.

“Washington State should more fully consider the value and diversity of this class of chemistries used in electronic and electrical products. NAFRA will continue its outreach to improve the rulemaking for this new program to help ensure that chemicals and the products that they enable are safe and available.”

Sources
  1. Blais, Matthew S., Karen Carpenter, and Kyle Fernandez. “Comparative Room Burn Study of Furnished Rooms from the United Kingdom, France and the United States.” Fire Technology (2019): 1-26.
American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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