In a groundbreaking move, the European Commission has adopted a regulation to ban organohalogen flame retardants in televisions and other displays. The ban goes into effect in 2021, protecting Europeans as well as workers around the globe from unnecessary exposure to these harmful chemicals.
Europe’s move sets a new standard for preventing the use of toxic flame retardants in a key product sector—demonstrating the urgent need for action in the United States and the opportunity for companies to make safer choices.
Organohalogen flame retardants are persistent chemicals linked to a variety of health concerns, including thyroid disruption, cancer, and learning deficits. When companies use them in the plastics in electronics, they leach out and contaminate our homes and workplaces. Testing completed by Toxic-Free Future and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign, working with Dr. Heather Stapleton of Duke University, found that the majority of TVs tested had high concentrations of organohalogen flame retardants in their casings.
The EU ban applies to all electronic displays, including TVs, computer monitors, and digital signage displays, with sizes equal to or greater than 100 cm2 or 15.5 in2. Europe made this move as part of a larger Ecodesign Regulation, driven by the desire to make plastic free of toxic flame retardants available for recycling.
In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) granted a petition in 2017 to ban organohalogen flame retardants in electronics casings and warned manufacturers and retailers to avoid their use. Since that time, however, the CPSC has not actually put the ban into place. Washington State is currently considering taking action on flame retardants in electronics casings under its new law, Safer Products for Washington.
It is unacceptable that American families are less protected from the known dangers of flame retardants than are our friends across the pond. In light of federal inaction on flame retardants, states must step up and follow Europe’s lead to make sure manufacturers switch from organohalogen flame retardants to safer solutions. State-level bans are common-sense changes that will protect health and improve recycling efforts without sacrificing product functionality or appearance.