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New DecaBDE threshold “too high”
A range of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) have complained that the new concentration limit for toxic flame retardants such as DecaBDE is still too high, calling it a “permission slip to contaminate.”
Only last month, the European Council reached a provisional agreement to toughen rules on what it terms Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), including the brominated flame retardant DecaBDE, which has recently been found in the casings of various printer cartridges.
The new ‘unintentional trace contaminant value’ threshold was set at 500 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) for all BDEs cumulatively – not just DecaBDE. Although this was half of what was originally proposed in the European Parliament, it was still “significantly higher” than the level campaigned for by NGOs, according to Chemical Watch.
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Arnika Association, and the International POPs Elimination Network (Ipen) criticised the new limit, particularly for the effect it would have in plastic toys, and said that through its endorsement, the European Council and Parliament “accept leav[ing] our children at risk of contamination from persistent organic pollutants.”
The three NGOs cited a 2018 study, which found 92 percent of lab-tested consumer goods, including plastic toys, sourced from 19 different European countries, are BDE-contaminated, with the flame retardants primarily coming from recycled electronic waste.
This is in contravention to obligations under the Stockholm Convention, which expressly prohibits the recycling of articles known to contain DecaBDE. According to Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisor to Ipen, “this sets the stage for a conflict at the upcoming Conference of the Parties.”
“Recycling toxic chemicals into new products undermines the entire concept of a circular economy,” continued Genon Jensen, Executive Director of HEAL. “This calls for strong action from European decision-makers to eliminate them once and for all. BDEs are nothing to play with.”
Jensen added that the prohibited chemicals “are responsible for attention and neurological deficits in children,” as well as being known to disrupt the thyroid function.
The NGOs also alleged that contamination through the recycling of BDEs can also introduce dioxins, a further group of highly hazardous substances, into products made from recycling plastic.