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NASEM Report Confirms Organohalogen Flame Retardants Cannot Be Assessed for Hazards as a Single Class

Jennifer Garfinkel

WASHINGTON (May 15, 2019) – The American Chemistry Council’s North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) made the following comments after the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) published a new report rejecting a single class approach to assessing the potential hazards of organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs):

“Flame retardants play an important role in reducing fire risk and helping ensure overall product safety, so it is essential that decision makers understand the value these substances bring to public safety.

“The findings that organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) cannot be assessed as a single class confirms what scientists, regulators, and other authoritative bodies have already determined: it is not scientifically accurate or appropriate to make broad conclusions or impose a one-size-fits-all regulatory approach for OFRs. The findings also track with past reviews conducted by the Academy, which focused on using chemical specific data to evaluate OFRs.

“OFRs include a wide range of substances with differing characteristics, structures and intended uses. In addition, flame retardants have different physical, chemical and toxicological profiles, meaning no two chemicals are exactly alike and are not universally interchangeable. Multiple available studies demonstrate that the potential risk to consumers from many of these substances is negligible.

“Key differences between organohalogen flame retardants are highlighted within assessments conducted by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. EPA, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada, the European Chemicals Agency, and the European Food Safety Authority. By recommending a subclass approach, the NASEM’s findings are consistent with other chemical assessment agencies. For example, the U.S. EPA has previously suggested a sub-class or ‘cluster’ approach, providing for a more efficient evaluation of existing data, while also supporting more informed decisions.

“While we have not reviewed the entire report, NAFRA looks forward to working with the scientific community and regulatory agencies to provide additional input to further inform the evaluation of OFRs.”

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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