Newsletter No 1 March 2010

ENFIRO: Search for environment-compatible flame retardants

Dr. Pim Leonards

flamesTo inhibit or resist the spread of fire flame retardants are applied in a wide range of commercial products like computers, cars, furniture, paints and foams. Currently, some of the brominated flame retardants are under discussion or are recently banned by the EU as they are considered harmful due to their persistent nature and toxicity. ENFIRO (Life Cycle Assessment of Environment-Compatible Flame Retardants: Prototypical Case Study) is a new European research project coordinated by IVM. The main aim of the project is to study the substitution options for the harmful flame retardants resulting in a comprehensive dataset on the viability of production and application, environmental safety, and a life cycle assessment.

The feasibility of production and application and the environmental acceptability of substitution options for a selection of the most relevant flame retarded products like electronic equipment, specific plastics, paints and textiles, are assessed by three case studies. They have to provide information on the performance of the alternative flame retardants (FRs) in the different products, their toxicity and emission of toxic substances during use (and fire) and their environmental behaviour. An ENFIRO Stakeholder Forum (ESF) with members representing FR users (e.g. formulators and users of FRs), waste (processing) plants but also from other institutes like NGOs and policy-related ones guides this project.

5a enfiro logoThe main objectives of ENFIRO are:

To select substitution options for specific BFRs and prioritize FRs for further study in a number of case studies;

To perform technical assessments on five alternative FR/product combinations; printed circuit boards, electronic components, injection moulded products, textile back coatings and intumesent paints;

To determine the toxicological effects and environmental behaviour of the selected FRs;

To determine the technical qualities of the selected FRs and their behaviour and possible effects when incorporated in products;

To perform a risk assessment of the selected FRs;

To determine and predict the social and economic effects of replacing the specific BFRs by the selected alternative FRs;

To perform life-cycle assessment (LCA) and a Life Cycle Costing (LCC) analysis to advice on the safe production and use of one or more of the alternative FRs;

To recommend certain FR/product combinations for future study.

ENFIRO coordinated by IVM researcher Dr. Pim Leonards, started in September 2009 and runs until August 2012. The ENFIRO consortium is a unique collaboration between industries, SME's and universities with a wide variety of scientific disciplines. The ENFIRO project team includes VU University Amsterdam (IVM), University of Ulster, Clariant Produkte (D) GmbH, IRIS Vernici s.r.l., Procoat, IVAM, Stockholm University, Utrecht University (IRAS), Swerea IVF AB, University of Amsterdam, Callisto Productions Ltd, and ITRI Ltd. The project is carried out with financial support from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme.

Contact information: Dr. Pim Leonards

More information: website ENFIRO (