Chemicals use in electrical equipment
Chemical substances are commonly added to electronic and electrical equipment to enhance their fire safety by inhibiting ignition and slowing the rate of combustion. Some types of flame retardants, notably brominated flame retardants (BRFs), have known toxic properties, are highly resistant to degradation in the environment and are able to bioaccumulate in humans and animals.
Some BRFs are now widespread environmental pollutants present in the atmosphere and in water courses. These compounds can also be released from products containing them during their use, resulting in increased human exposure.
At the end of their useful lives, products treated with BRFs are classed as hazardous waste and are much less likely to be recycled. Incineration of these products can lead to the release of bromine in other hazardous forms, such as hydrogen bromide and brominated dioxins.
Currently a number of safety standards for electronic and electrical appliances containing clauses that favour the use of hazardous flame retardants are under discussion both at European and international level.