Brominated Flame Retardants protect what is essential - Let's talk bromine
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Brominated Flame Retardants protect what is essential

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is a nearly 16-year-old EU law. At this moment, the EU is discussing new prohibitions on the ‘essential use’ of beneficial chemical substances. Brominated Flame Retardants play an essential role in ensuring fire safety and contributing to the UN decade of fire safety. BSEF and other stakeholders have published position papers regarding this issue.

With a substantial revision of REACH on the horizon, the European Commission is taking more action on banning or authorising “harmful chemicals”. Unfortunately, the current proposal on how to decide which substances can and can’t be used could potentially cause more harm than good.

Flame retardants (FRs) are highly beneficial to society — preventing fires and increasing time for escape or fire brigade intervention, among others. However, under the draft proposed Essential Use definition inspired by the decades-old Montreal Protocol, FRs are now at risk of being labelled ‘non-essential’ and thus banned, placing society in great danger of fires.

Under any Essential Use definition, FRs must be considered essential for the sake of both fire safety and sustainability:

  1. Embedded in small amounts, FRs reduce flammability and delay fire ignition, thereby saving thousands of lives. For instance, the UK and Ireland both have strong Furniture Fire standards, resulting in half the number of casualties per capita compared to the US and the EU, both of which have generally poorer fire standards.[1] Without fire safety standards and the corresponding use of FRs, many Europeans’ lives will be at risk
  2. Insulation foam, which is flammable, is a major contributor to energy efficiency. FRs are added to combustible insulation materials to make them safer, thus helping to lower CO2 emissions. As another example, there are ever more electric vehicles (EVs) on the road, each one equipped with a sophisticated battery carrying an increased risk of an electrical fire. Without FRs to guard against such disasters, the EV transition would be impossible and less sustainable.

As REACH covers nearly all chemicals, the criteria for ‘essential use’ must be flexible enough to consider the wide range of important uses of these chemicals by taking into account such things as social benefit and safe usage:

  • If a chemical benefits society, REACH should not ban it outright
  • If such a chemical can be used safely with proper handling, its uses mustn’t be curtailed

Such criteria are simply based on sound science. Open and transparent assessments should consider the whole picture and make case-by-case analyses of potential risks, especially when it comes to life-saving products. Failing to recognise the essential uses of FRs would leave society open to numerous deaths, injuries, and property damage from fires.


For further information please contact, Beatrice Pepe, Public Affairs and Communications Officer (


[1] BSEF Position Paper Essential Use of Flame Retardants

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