Commission proposes ban on brominated flame retardant

The European Commission has proposed a ban on the marketing and use of a chemical flame retardant used in the production of polyurethane foam for furniture and upholstery, from 1 July 2003.

According to the Commission, pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE) poses a risk to the environment, bioaccumulating, and even being found in increasing concentrations in human breast milk, leading to fears over the exposure of infants to the chemical.

“The proposal to restrict the marketing and use of pentaBDE was prepared in response to the findings of the risk assessment,” said Erkii Liikanen, Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner. “The proposed Directive covers all uses of pentaBDE and applies the precautionary principle, given concern about increasing levels of pentaBDE in breast milk from unidentified sources.”

PentaBDE belongs to the group of chemicals called polybrominated dyphenyl ethers, which has been causing concern in member states for a number of years (see related story). The new proposal was prepared in consultation with experts from across Europe, and is based on the results of a risk assessment, and is also in line with the precautionary principle, according to the Commission. The Commission has concluded that health and environmental protection outweighs the costs, pointing out that suitable alternative flame retardants are available.

The Commission’s proposal has been presented to the Council of Ministers and European Parliament for final adoption.

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