Background and aims of the study
In the EU, fire safety has been an issue of serious public and political concern during the past years, and Member States have taken different approaches to deal with it. To provide a contribution to further develop and possibly conclude this debate, the study on "Identification and evaluation of data on flame retardants in consumer products" aimed to acquire an up-to-date knowledge on flame retardant substances currently applied in consumer products largely used at home. Ideally, the results of the study should enable an independent Scientific Committee to provide an opinion on the safety of these flame retardants (covering both human health and the environment) and to give recommendations on flame retardants to be preferentially used in consumer products.
The study also intended to find out whether an increased resistance of consumer products against catching fire, as required in certain Member States, results in a reduced number of fire incidents (e.g. fire victims, burnings, injuries, deaths…).
The study identified 42 flame retardant substances for consumer products in domestic environments. Some of these substances were already assessed (i) under the "Existing Substances Regulation" (EC) N° 793/93 (ESR) and (ii) by the UK. For the remaining substances the study sought to prepare risk assessments by applying the REACH 1 1st tier approach to the data available. To note that a 1st tier risk assessment is a relatively "crude" way to assess risks, which may need to be refined when an in-depth risk assessment is needed.
Eventually the flame retardant substances were placed into different groups according to the results of the risk assessments (whether existing or prepared in this study). For 22 substances however no risk assessment could be prepared within this study because data were too scarce.
Thus, more data are required before an in-depth scientific evaluation of the flame retardant substances is possible. Such data, including information on consumer and environmental risks, should (have) become available under REACH as some of the substances have been registered in 2010, and others may follow in 2013 and 2018.
Concerning the particular fire resistance of certain consumer products in some Member States, no link could be identified between the number of fire deaths and the stringency of the protection requirements. This may be due to the insufficient specificity of most statistics available and the potential influence of a range of other factors, such as the introduction of smoke alarms.