Controversial Flame Retardant Retains Aircraft Approval

Used in jet materials employed across commercial aviation industry.

Aerospace manufacturers have won a 10-year exemption from new EU rules restricting the use of a toxic flame retardant.

The brominated flame retardant decaBDE is used in many plastics, rubbers and foams and is known as a persistent organic pollutant.

As an endocrine disruptor, decaBDE can interfere with the normal functioning of human hormones, potentially affecting the reproductive and nervous systems, states the European Environmental Bureau, a non-government organization.

The European Commission has now regulated to limit decaBDE concentrations to less than 0.1% by weight from 2 March, 2019.

A 2013 study found that concentrations of the chemical in aircraft dust samples were “orders of magnitude” higher than in samples taken from offices and homes.

Nonetheless, the European Commission has given civil and military aircraft manufacturers an extra 10 years to comply with its new decaBDE regulation. There is also an exemption for automotive spare parts.

The EEB thinks both exemptions are unnecessary, arguing that alternative flame retardants exist and aircraft manufactures could easily deploy them.

“Given that Boeing has accepted that decaBDE could be completely phased out by next year, it seems like a missed opportunity to have drawn a line under this dangerous substance once and for all,” said Tatiana Santos, EEB senior policy officer, chemicals and nanotechnology.

However, in a 2012 submission the US Environmental Protection Agency, Boeing said:  “Although decaBDE is used in a number of parts and components in aerospace manufacturing, the volumes are generally low.”

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