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Electronics and Flame Retardants

Erich Shea

Flame retardants are an important tool to help reduce fires, injuries and deaths from fire, and property damage. They have been shown to be effective in preventing fires from starting and slowing their spread once they start.1,2,3

Why Flame Retardants Are in Electronics

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 fire scenarios, leaving more time for people to escape and more time for emergency personnel to respond.

Electronic products are unique because they have a potential ignition source generated by the essential components of the product — circuit boards, transformers, batteries, connectors, and many other components.

Flame retardants can inhibit or suppress the combustion process. They reduce the amount of heat released from a fire and the potential for a fire to spread. Flame retardants can also reduce the amount of smoke produced by a fire.4

Have you ever noticed sparks, overheating, melting, or smoke from an electrical device?

Flame retardants are one of the key reasons these incidents may not escalate into something more serious like a home or office fire.

Different Products Require Different Chemical Compounds

Not all flame retardants are the same. A variety of flame retardants are necessary because materials and products that need to be made fire-resistant are chemically and physically different and have different uses and performance requirements.

Flame retardants help to inhibit or suppress fire ignition — no ignition, no fire. Specific flame retardants are included in specific electronic products based on a product’s attributes, properties, use, and potential ignition threats.

Policymakers at the state and federal levels are increasingly proposing one-size-fits-all policies to ban, restrict, or regulate entire chemical families. The review and regulation of substances should take into account the significant differences among the many compounds that are part of a chemical family. Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, we should have a fact-based discussion about the nature of these substances, how they differ from each other and what they do affect — and what they don’t — in terms of human health and the environment.

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