Scientists, Researchers, NGOs, and DCA Lead Electronics Industry to Environmental Victory; (PR-USA)
PR-USA, May 6, 2008
San Francisco (PRWEB) May 6, 2008 — Dr. Arlene Blum, a visiting scholar in
the Chemistry Department at the University of California at Berkeley; Friends
of the Earth; Design Chain Associates, LLC; the Center for Environmental
Health; the Initiative for Green Science Policy; and a worldwide coalition of
scientists, physicians, and NGOs have achieved what was thought to be
impossible. A proposed new draft standard by the International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC), IEC 62368 "Audio/Video, Information and Communication
Technology Equipment – Safety – Requirements," which could have led to the
introduction of hundreds of millions of pounds of potentially toxic fire
retardant chemicals into consumers' homes and bodies, has been defeated.
Eighteen of the 31 voting countries, or 58%, voted against the IEC draft
standard based on new information provided by the coalition. This was far more
than the 25% needed to defeat the standard.
The majority of IEC 62368 improves existing standards for electronic product
safety; however Clause 7, a part of the standard which would have required
plastic enclosures for household electronic products to withstand candle flame
ignition, had no valid fire safety rationale, but enormous potential negative
consequences. The Clause, which was promoted as an enhanced fire safety
standard, in fact had limited potential to affect fire safety, as appliance
fires represent only a small number of the total candle fires in the US each year.
In the US – which has the best fire data in the world – appliance fires caused
by candles, which represent a far broader scope than was covered by this draft
standard, amount to only 3% of total candle fires, result in no deaths, and
cause only $5M of property damage a year according to a 2007 report by the National
Fire Protection Association.
In order to meet the requirements outlined in Clause 7, producers would
likely have used hundreds of millions of pounds of potentially toxic fire
retardant chemicals that can migrate out of consumer products into dust, humans,
and animals where they persist and bioaccumulate. Many dozens of peer-reviewed
scientific papers provide evidence of environmental toxicity as well as
negative health impacts in many species, including humans. Fire retardant
chemicals that are used in electronics and many other products can cause
neurological and reproductive impairments such as hyperactivity, mental
retardation, reduced sperm count, reproductive dysfunction, thyroid
abnormalities, endocrine disruption, and/or cancer in animals exposed to them.
These negative impacts have led to an ongoing stream of restrictions by
governments around the world on the use of a series of fire retardant chemicals
in consumer products.
Dr. Arlene Blum, who is working with the coalition of scientists and physicians
who studied the impacts of Clause 7, noted, "My colleagues and I are
delighted that the IEC committees didn't move forward with this potentially
destructive standard without considering current health and environmental
information." Dr Blum coordinated the research and writing of the
"The Case against Fire Retardant Electronics, an extensive report
(available at http://greensciencepolicy.org/standards.shtml) which
summarizes scientific research showing that the fire retardant chemicals
currently in use could have negative environmental and health consequences, and
also highlights the lack of a well-documented fire safety rationale in Clause
The fire retardant chemical industry does not provide adequate information
about the chemical composition or toxicology of its products, nor does it
acknowledge the extensive literature of scientific publications showing
environmental and health/safety problems. Clause 7 was initiated and promoted
by this industry through the National Association of State Fire Marshals
(NASFM) which is housed in the office of the fire retardant industry's
Washington, DC-based lobbyist, Peter Sparber and Associates.
"Through deceptive and incomplete data, and sheer force of will, the
fire retardant industry has, over the past several years, very nearly succeeded
in making this candle flame ignition requirement a fait accompli", said
Mike Kirschner of Design Chain Associates. "The electronics industry's
desire is to improve environmental performance of its products and this would
have driven it in the other direction for no good reason."
Following a decision last December by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC) to not move forward with an open flame standard for furniture foam due
to health and environmental concerns, CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore said,
"No one wants to trade fire risks for chemical toxicity risks." No
one, that is, except the fire retardant chemical industry.
"Fire retardant chemicals are building up in our bodies at astonishing
rates, with children now showing the highest levels. This is of great concern
given that these chemicals have not been proven safe," said Sara Schedler,
of Friends of the Earth. "We cannot continue to allow consumers to be the
test subjects for untested chemicals."
"We are pleased that the chemical industry failed in its attempt to use
false claims about fire safety as a way to sell more hazardous chemicals,"
said Judy Levin, of The Center for Environmental Health. "Consumers
deserve safe electronics made without unnecessary chemical threats."
The efforts of the fire retardant chemical industry to promote candle
standards for consumer electronic housings through the NASFM are not over.
There are two other draft IEC standards, revisions of IEC 60065 (TV and audio
equipment) and IEC 60950 (IT equipment), that incorporate this same Clause 7
candle flame resistance requirements. In addition, the NASFM has introduced the
requirement in Canadian CSA and American UL standards which have votes
scheduled for May 19. We urge members of all committees to vote against all of
these harmful and unnecessary standards.
The Initiative for Green Science Policy's mission is to interface between
academic scientists and engineers and industry to provide current objective
research results and data to help industry move to less toxic chemicals and
means of production. It will serve as an interface between scientists and the
policy needs of national, state, and local governments and will educate
undergraduate and graduate science and engineering students to understand and
include environmental and health impacts of chemicals and materials in their
Friends of the Earth (FOE) is a 39-year old international environmental
nonprofit organization with U.S.
bases in Washington D.C.
and San Francisco.
FOE conducts major campaigns on global warming, human health and toxics
elimination, cleaner energy and transportation. FOE's Safe Kids campaign
protects public and environmental health by working towards chemical policy
reform and the immediate phase-out of highly toxic chemical fire retardants
called halogenated fire retardants from consumer products.
Design Chain Associates, LLC provides services that help Electronics OEMs
increase engineering, procurement, and production efficiency, product and
operational environmental performance, and corporate profitability by ensuring
that the right decisions about supply base and the environment are made during
the earliest stages of the product lifecycle, and are built-in to corporate
strategies and tactics. We focus on helping manufacturing clients understand,
comply with, track, and develop profitable strategies around and beyond
emerging environmental regulations like RoHS, WEEE, EuP, and REACH.
Center for Environmental Health: For over ten years, the Center for
Environmental Health has worked at the intersection of public health and the
environment, reducing pollution and promoting alternatives to the many
chemicals that cause cancer, asthma, learning disabilities, birth defects, and
other illnesses. For the past three years, CEH has been working on minimizing
the environmental and public health impacts of electronics throughout their
lifecycle. Our cutting-edge work moves major industries to greener practices,
demonstrating the value in business that protects public health.