Setback for Swedish flame retardant ban

Swedish plans to ban damaging flame retardants have suffered a serious blow following the release of an independent study into possible economic effects.

The Swedish Government is considering going beyond EU measures which will likely restrict the use of the flame retardants HBCDD and TBBPA and had asked the Swedish Chemical Inspectorate (KemI) to investigate the impact of a complete ban on the substances.

But the KemI report argues such a ban would have severe economic repercussions and present practical problems for the Scandinavian nation.

An across-the-board ban would cripple the domestic electronics industry and make imports impossible, says the report, as TBBPA is used in the manufacturing of the circuit boards used in all electronic devices and alternatives do not currently exist, meaning manufacture would probably grind to a halt.

A ban blocking the use of TBBPA in electronics would not, in the opinion of KemI, lead to any health or environmental benefits either.

The report also points out that Sweden’s current use of HBCDD is very low, totaling less than 0.05% of that used by the EU as a whole, and emissions from the Swedish plastic industry are a minor environmental problem compared with those in several other member states.

KemI recommended that Sweden should wait for the EU to deliver its planned risk management strategy for the two chemicals later this year when it would be possible to more easily assess any further need for national controls.

If at that stage the Swedish Government considers there is need for further action, concludes the report, there should be exemptions which would prevent a total meltdown of the electronics industry and the ban should be introduced in stages to allow the commercial sector time to adapt and seek alternative materials.

Sam Bond

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