Flame retardants in products

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Flame retardants delay fires – but some of them can be harmful to health and the environment
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Flame retardants reduce the flammability of objects and can therefore delay the onset of a fire. Some of the commonly used flame retardants, however, can be toxic to the environment and human health. They are widespread traceable in indoor spaces and nature.

Flame retardants cover a lot of different organic and inorganic chemicals. Their application has to match with the special type of product, its material composition and its designated use. Products, in which flame retardants are applied, are for example the casings of electrical and electronic devices, printed circuit boards, cables, coatings at the bottom side of carpets, special textiles, insulation and fitting foam glue for construction. Organic flame retardants consist primarily of brominated compounds, halogenated and non-halogenated phosphorous compounds and chloroparaffins. As inorganic flame retardants aluminum trihydroxide, magnesium dihydroxide and antimony trioxide (as synergistic to brominated flame retardants) are applicated.

Apart from the positive characteristic of being fire protective, several flame retardants also have negative attributes to health and environment. Especially some of the halogenated flame retardants show hazardous impacts to health and environment, are persistent and bio-accumulative. Furthermore, in the case a burning can not be prevented, some flame retardants form corrosive or toxic fire gases and toxic decomposition products. The possible formation of dioxins and furans from polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) during a fire is an example for this.