Flame retardants are commonly found in consumer goods e.g. upholstery furniture, carpets, curtains and electrical appliances. Materials treated with flame retardants resist from the ignition. However, some flame retardants are toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative in the human body and the environment. Ever since 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) bans the sale of any children's clothing containing the flame-retardant chemical tris (2,3,-dibromopropyl) phosphate. Other than that, Federal does not further restrict other specific flame retardants. It has been a trend that US States proposed Bills to regulate the uses of toxic flame retardants. Several on-going States Bills including Iowa1, Massachusetts2, New Jersey3, North Carolina4and Rhode Island5 are interesting to note.
Majority of proposed flame retardants are organohalogens or organophosphates. These substances can be used in plastics, foam, or textiles. Organohalogens refer to the organic compounds where the carbon is bonded to halogens e.g. bromine and chlorine. While organophosphate are those compounds which contain one or more phosphate ester groups. Some of them used as a replacement of organohalognated flame retardants e.g. tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCPP) is used to replace pentabrominated diphenyl ethers. The scope of the bills is mainly related to children’s products, bedding, carpets and upholstery furniture. Most of the proposed limits are 1000 ppm but North Carolina’s bill suggested a relatively low limit down to 50 ppm. Details of the State bills can be found in Table A and the Table B summarized the list of proposed flame retardants.
Table A: Highlights of the flame retardants’ State Bills
State(s) – Bill no.
Proposed flame retardants
Proposed effective date
Iowa – HF 457
Massachusetts – S1175
Any other identified chemical flame retardants
Bedding, carpeting, children's products (≤ 12 years old), residential upholstered furniture, or residential or commercial curtain materials, blinds, or shades
1 January 2018
New Jersey – A3885
Children's product (≤ 10 years old) or upholstered furniture
On the first day of the seventh month following the bill enactment
North Carolina – HB767
Children's product (< 12 years old)
1 July 2019
Rhode Island – H5082
Any organohalogen flame retardants
Residential upholstered bedding or furniture
1 July 2018
Table B: A list of the proposed flame retardants in Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island
Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA)
Bis (2-Ethylhexyl)-3,4,5,6-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH).