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PCB | June 29, 2006

New Research shows that Flame Retardant<br>Chemicals Save Lives and Money

A recent study by the Swedish National Testing and Research Institute (SP), in cooperation with the Risk Assessment Institute at Utrecht University, has produced a model which provides a complete analysis of all costs and benefits to society due to environmental restrictions.

How do we weigh personal safety against environmental standards? All environmental legislation leads to costs and benefits. This new model developed by SP provides the ability to accurately weight the risks and benefits of various environmental actions, offering a mechanism to ensure that regulatory decisions are based soundly in science. The model has initially been used to test flame retardant chemicals. "There are many personal opinions in the environmental debate," says Margaret Simonson, researcher at SP. "Although we must have high ambitions in our environmental work, we have to base this work on scientific facts. In our study, we demonstrate that some flame retardants have a legitimate place in society, even when evaluated in regard to sustainable development." Many deaths from TV fires SP's study aims at quantifying the gains from using flame retardants in TVs. Some authorities, such as Sweden, are very critical of flame retardants, but at the same time face the problem that TV fires are a fairly common occurrence. In the EU each year there are about 20,000 TV fires, causing at least 160 deaths and 2,000 serious injuries. "If we apply the precautionary principle, there ought to be high requirements for fire safety in plastic covers of TVs. This is not the case today in all markets," says Simonson. SP bases part of its study on the environmental risk assessment that the EU has carried out for the most common flame retardant, DecaBDE. According to this research, DecaBDE fulfils very high environmental requirements. The study demonstrates that by using this flame retardant, gains of between 520 and 1,100 million Euros (650 million to 1.3 billion USD) per year for the entire EU area could be achieved, mainly through saved health care costs and costs relating to damaged property. The costs for industry to introduce flame retardants and to take care of waste have been taken into account. "The great benefit of flame retardants is, of course, the saving of lives and human health," says Margaret Simonson.
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