WASHINGTON (May 31, 2023) — The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) issued the following statement in response to the publication of restrictions and reporting requirements in the Safer Products for Washington Cycle 1 regulation with respect to the use of organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) in casings and enclosures of electronic and electrical equipment.
The members of the North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) remain very concerned with the Safer Products for Washington regulations on flame retardants and the impact they may have on overall product design, performance, safety, and product availability. The new rules primarily impact an array of indoor consumer electronic products by restricting the use of OFRs in plastic casings. However, Washington State has importantly communicated in the past that the regulatory scope does not impact critical uses of these same chemistries, including inside electrical products, products sold as spare parts, medical devices, aerospace, motorized vehicles, etc. NAFRA would also note that even with this reduced scope, the final regulations are in direct conflict with other global jurisdictions, further contributing to a patchwork of conflicting state and international regulations that create confusion in the marketplace and complicate the states’ ability to enforce the regulations.
At the same time, the regulations appropriately recognize the numerous critical uses of flame retardants and allow for manufacturers to seek appropriate exemptions where alternative solutions and chemistries cannot be found. NAFRA members look forward to communicating and collaborating with Washington State and key downstream users as they work to implement this new regulation. As the program moves forward, NAFRA believes Washington State officials should align regulatory actions with other state, federal, and international requirements as much as possible. Otherwise, consumers and manufacturers in the state face a confusing landscape of inconsistent and overlapping regulations that may affect the availability of electronic and electrical products.
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. Electrical fires remain an important public safety issue, and flame retardants are valuable chemistries that help to stop residential fires from product failures.
If the Safer Products for Washington program is going to be successful, it is critical that state officials more fully address the underlying regulatory requirements for this new program and meaningfully consider proposed improvements including those identified by product designers and manufacturers. Product safety is a shared objective, and NAFRA looks forward to working with policymakers in the state to enhance implementation of this new program and help ensure that chemicals and the products that they enable are safe and available.