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Flame Retardants in Printed Circuit Boards Partnership - About this Project

About This Project | Milestones | Participants

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Updated Draft Assessment

On December 15, 2014, EPA released the updated draft alternatives assessment of the environmental and human health impacts of flame retardants used or that could be used in printed circuit boards for electronic products, such as cell phones and computers. The purpose of this alternatives assessment is to provide objective information to help members of the electronics industry more efficiently factor human health and environmental considerations into decision-making when selecting flame retardants for PCB applications.

Read the updated alternatives assessment for the Partnership to Evaluate Flame Retardants in Printed Circuit Boards (PDF) (726pp, 21.14MB). The draft report is available for public review and comment until February 15, 2015. Please submit comments to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2014-0893 via www.regulations.gov.

This draft assessment provides updated human health and environmental information on flame retardant alternatives to tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA) for use in circuit boards. TBBPA is one of the most commonly used flame retardants for printed circuit boards in electronics.

The report includes a description of differences in combustion by-products from burning printed circuit boards containing alternative flame retardants at temperatures simulating uncontrolled recycling or incineration.

In parallel with this draft assessment, industry trade groups tested alternative non-halogenated flame retardants and found that they function equally as well or better than TBBPA-based circuit boards for certain products.

Also on this page:

Executive summary, chapters, and appendices

Why did we conduct an alternatives assessment?

The level of available human health and environmental information varies widely by flame retardant chemical. In 2006, the electronics industry partnered with EPA's Design for the Environment program to advance understanding of the human health and environmental impacts of conventional and new flame-retardant materials that can provide fire safety for printed circuit boards. Representatives from a wide range of interest groups participated to ensure that a full range of views were considered from the start and that these views were incorporated appropriately into the project's objective, methodology, and assessment.

Scope of the project

As the partnership explored potential hazards and exposures, it incorporated life-cycle thinking throughout for ten flame retardants that were considered potentially viable for use in FR-4 printed circuit boards. The scope of this analysis included aspects of the life cycle where public and occupational exposures could occur. For example, consideration of exposures from incineration or burning at end-of-life was included, as were exposures from manufacturing and use.

How did we develop the assessment?

The partnership released a first draft of the alternatives assessment in 2008 for public comment. The comments from 2008 are addressed in the updated report.

In addition to the hazard assessment of the alternatives, experimental testing started in 2008 at University of Dayton Research Institute and EPA as part of this project, to learn more about the combustion by-products released during end-of-life disposal processes of printed circuit boards.

Open burning and incineration scenarios were simulated for different combinations of circuit board laminates and components. The laminates tested contained either a brominated flame retardant, a halogen-free flame retardant, or no flame retardant. Halogenated dioxins, halogenated furans, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons emitted during combustion were measured to better understand the exposures associated with the combustion of this type of electronic waste. Experiments were completed in 2012, and a report was shared with the partnership in 2013.

This draft updated assessment includes a summary of the combustion testing and updated hazard profiles for the flame retardants. The hazard profiles were updated to align with the 2011 DfE Hazard Assessment Criteria (PDF) (50pp, 1.2MB).

How do I get more information?

Please contact Emma Lavoie of DfE at Lavoie.Emma@epa.gov or 202-564-0951.

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