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Veronique Steukers columns | June 28, 2006

Threat to the electronics industry

Swedish Government distances itself from EU environment rules. Join the Discussion.

The plastics and electronics industry should be alerted to signals from the Swedish Government as restrictions of some flame retardant substances could force them into risking the fire safety of their products or into the use of less tested alternative substances. The flame retardant Deca-BDE could be banned in Sweden as early as June. Flame retardants are substances required to be applied to a wide range of materials in order to meet Sweden's fire safety standards (e.g. for cinemas, hospitals or other public buildings). Deca-BDE is used in applications such as plugs, cables, TV sets, carpets and furniture in public buildings or for insulation for the chemicals industry or other industry producing explosive goods. DecaBDE has gone through a lengthy evaluation process at EU level lasting 12 years in which Sweden was involved. As a result of this evaluation, the EU authorities agreed that no restrictions on the use of this flame retardant would be necessary. Sweden obviously ignores and goes against this decision by proposing a ban. Both the European Commission and several other EU Member States have opposed the Swedish Government's actions regarding their violation of the fundamental principles of the free movement of goods within the EU internal market. Such a ban will serve as a dangerous precedent for other substances, such as TBBPA, the flame retardant used in FR4-boards, for which restrictions have been announced for the Autumn. A national Swedish ban would also question the principle of chemical testing, which is the basis for evaluating the safety of a chemical. Why would industry spend millions of Euros in testing if results are ignored? Sweden is sending a signal that testing of chemicals does not have any impact on the approval of a chemical, regardless of whether risks have been found or not. This does not give confidence to the industry for the upcoming new EU Chemicals Legislation which calls for exactly the opposite: "no data, no market"! Industry should make clear to the Government that a ban of a substance does not only affect its production, but impacts the whole supply chain. On the example of electrical plugs, a ban of Deca-BDE would mean that these plugs could not be imported into Sweden and that Swedish manufacturers of electrical & electronic appliances would have to find an alternative solution to provide their appliances with electrical power. Presumably the Swedish market does not need any electrical & electronic appliances that work with plugs…? In spite of developments on the EU level which the Swedish Government contributed to, the Government has announced to take a decision on this ban before the elections in September this year. Veronique Steukers BSEF/EBFRIP www.bsef.com BSEF is the international organisation of the bromine chemical industry, whose remit is to inform stakeholders and commission science on brominated chemicals such as flame retardants. We are now opening up a discussion around this topic. Feel free to post comments and join the discussoin below.
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