Brominated flame retardants, the invisible heroes of fire safety in modern society - Let's talk bromine
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Brominated flame retardants, the invisible heroes of fire safety in modern society

As modern society continues to advance rapidly, the prevalence of highly flammable materials like plastics poses significant fire risks. Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) have emerged as invaluable tools in safeguarding against a plethora of fire hazards that have emerged following technological innovations.

Brominated Flame Retardants: Enhancing Safety and Sustainability

BFRs are substances that inhibit or slow down the growth of a fire. With the widespread use of highly flammable materials such as plastics, composites, foams, and synthetic fibre-based fillings, BFRs have never been more important.

The primary benefits of BFRs[1] include:

  • Reduced likelihood of ignition: BFRs can significantly decrease the chances of a material catching fire.
  • Slower fire growth: If a fire does occur, BFRs can slow its spread, preventing it from quickly becoming unmanageable.
  • Reduced heat release: By reducing the amount of heat a fire releases, BFRs can prevent a fire from growing and becoming uncontrollable.
  • Lower % by mass of flame retardant: BFRs are very efficient, meaning that only a small amount is needed to achieve robust fire resistance.


These traits make BFRs crucial for the safety and functionality of numerous applications in a variety of sectors. In transportation, BFRs are used in key components of vehicles such as cars and aeroplanes to make them safer and less flammable. In the Building and Construction (B&C) sector, BFRs play a vital role in reducing the flammability of materials and products, including curtains and drapery used in public buildings[2].

BFRs also contribute to the sustainability of the materials they are used in. An example of this is insulation foams, a major contributor to lowering energy consumption in buildings. Flame retardants are instrumental in reducing fire risks arising from combustible insulation materials, thereby contributing to reducing CO2 emissions.

In this context, it is also worth  notingthe EU’s recent adoption of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)[3] which aims to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions in the B&C sector. Acknowledging – at least partially – the calls for a holistic approach to building renovations, the EPBD incorporates fire safety considerations to protect the well-being of occupants.

The inclusion of fire protection provisions in the EPBD has been the focus of the advocacy efforts of the International Bromine Council (BSEF) and partner organisations. These efforts  included the co-signature of a “Fire Safety Manifesto”[4]. BFRs contribute to achieving the EPBD’s safety and sustainability objectives by acting as a crucial line of defense against fire, protecting both people and property. .

In the case studies below, we’ll take a closer look at the role BFRs play in reducing flammability and improving the safety of internal parts in the aerospace and automotive industries.

Case Study 1: Wiring Looms in Automotive Applications

FRs are essential for ensuring vehicle safety in automotive applications, providing occupants with crucial additional escape time in the event of a fire. BFRs, including EBP, are used in many electrical and electronic (E&E) components such as wiring looms, thin-wall/compact connectors (plug and sockets), gaskets, adhesives, and heat-shrink tubing. These components are widespread in both internal combustion engine vehicles as well as in electric vehicles (EVs), such as in the assembly of batteries. Considering this, BFRs are performing a crucial role in ensuring the successful transition from combustion to electrical mobility[5].

It’s worth highlighting that BFRs can achieve the applicable flame retardancy standards without adversely compromising other required material properties, such as mechanical strength, electrical performance or flexibility, ensuring a very high level of performance otherwise extremely difficult to replicate.

Case Study 2: Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) in Aerospace Applications

The aerospace industry relies heavily on printed circuit boards (PCBs) containing BFRs, such as Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), to ensure fire safety and reliability. These components, with lifespans of 10-20 years, necessitate stringent certification and testing procedures. The use of BFRs in these applications allows for adherence to these rigorous standards without the need for extensive re-certification efforts, ensuring the safety and reliability of thousands of components globally.. Furthermore, the efficient use of BFRs minimizes the need for reformulation and reduces the risk of costly supply-chain disruptions, further emphasizing their importance in aerospace applications.


Brominated Flame Retardants stand as indispensable assets in modern society, ensuring fire safety while fostering sustainability. From drapery and insulation foams to automotive wiring looms in EVs, their role in ensuring robust fire safety standards are met cannot be overstated. As we chart a path towards a more sustainable future, recognizing the essentiality of BFRs in reducing fire risks and safeguarding human lives and the environment is crucial.



[1] More information can be found here:

[2] For example, the French M-1 standard for curtains and drapery can only be achieved through the use of Brominated Flame Retardants. This guarantees safety in high-traffic public spaces.

[3] Full Directive text is available here:

[4] Full version of the Manifesto is available here:

[5]More information on this is available in BSEF Position Paper on the Essential Use of Flame Retardants, which can be found here:

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