Flame Retardants


Plastics have extremely good combustion properties, which can actually make them a viable source of energy; however, it makes them more dangerous in applications where there is risk of fire. Most notably, plastics used in fabrics, furniture and building products typically contain substances which limit their flammability. 

Science of Flame Retardants

  • USEPA Toolbox for Exposure Assessors October 2013
  • Summary: This site explains the benefits and risks of halogenated organics that are added to plastics to inhibit the spread of fire. Typical compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent in the environment and toxic to animals and humans. The site also identifies chemical properties of halogenated, phosphate-based and other common flame retardant compounds. Resources are provided for assessing safety of flame retardants. 

Do the Fire Safety Benefits Justify the Risks?

  •  Reviews on Environmental Health Volume 25, No. 4, 
  • Summary: This long review article was written by staff from the Green Science Policy Institute, a non-profit dedicated to informing the public and policy makers on issues of toxicity in consumer products -- chiefly and almost exclusively flame retardants. The article covers risk assessment, life cycle and alternatives and concludes that the environmental hazard outweighs the reduction in injury and death caused by fire.