Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are a structurally diverse group of compounds; their major point in common is not their chemical structure but rather that of their use as flame retardants. BFRs undergoing risk assessment in the EU under the existing chemicals regulation are the polybrominated diphenyl oxides (ethers; PBDPO), decabromodiphenyl oxide (DBDPO), octabromodiphenyl oxide (OBDPO) and pentabromodiphenyl oxide (PeBDPO), and the cyclic aliphatic, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). This paper will address the toxicology and environmental properties of these flame retardants as well as research and regulatory activities affecting them. DBDPO, OBDPO, PeBDPO, and the polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) were included in OECD's Risk Reduction Programme on Selected BFRs and are included in our Voluntary Industry Commitment (VIC) accepted at the OECD Joint Meeting in June 1995. Previous reviews on some or all of the BFRs under consideration include the WHO EHC Document on the PBDPO, the Binetti report on flame retardants used in upholstered furniture in the EU, the UK risk policy analyst report on the PBDPO, the Netherlands reassessment of the PBB and PBDPO, the OECD Monograph on Selected BFRs, the techno-economic study on emissions of BFRs in the EU. Research is presently underway to add to the data base of knowledge on these BFRs. All have high molecular weights ranging from 564 (PeBDPO) to 959 (DBDPO) and negligible vapor pressures and water solubilities. Studies on the water solubility of the PBDPO and HBCD have recently been concluded; their water solubilities are <0.1 ppb (DBDPO), <1 ppb (OBDPO), 13 ppb (PeBDPO) and 3.4 ppb (HBCD). Their vapor pressure is so low (DBDPO <10–7 mm Hg) that common methods of analysis are not applicable and a new method, the spinning rotor method, is being validated for use. Adsorption to soil/sediment is expected to be high. Extraction studies on DBDPO and HBCD establish that migration of these BFRs from polymers into water is negligible. The same negligible migration characteristics are also anticipated for OBDPO and PeDPO. Therefore, contamination of groundwater as a result of disposal of flame retarded plastics should not occur. The above physical/chemical properties of these BFRs minimize their potential to move into and in the environment irrespective of their lack of ready biodegradability. In addition, DBDPO, which has been extensively studied, has been found to have a short half life in rats, minimal absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, rapid elimination, and to lack bioaccumulation potential in fish. These properties, coupled with the minimal effects on mammalian species on repeated dosing of DBDPO and HBCD, and their lack of mutagenicity and skin sensitization indicate these brominated flame retardants can be used by society to provide needed protection from the hazard of fire.
Polymer Degradation and Stability – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 1999
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