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Monday January 25, 2021

Flame Retardants Project Is in Early Steps, Confirm CPSC Staff

CPSC staff January 19 explained that they had not yet discussed the effects on its flame-retardant research of the recently passed mandate to move towards adopting California's TB-117-2013 into its upholstered furniture flammability rules. The research on organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs) is only a risk assessment versus a consideration of benefits, listeners heard. Any work in the latter area would occur later.


These updates came in a teleconference between CPSC and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The bulk of the conversation was between CPSC's Kris Hatlelid and ACC's Ben Gann.


The focus was the FY2021 project outlined last summer (PSL, 7/6/20) to address OFRs, and many of the answers to ACC questions showed that work is in the very early stages. This includes primary efforts towards a literature search, a step that will precede more in-depth reviews of studies. As for openness to stakeholder information, CPSC is not near to putting out requests for comments, but industry and others are free to inform the agency about pertinent studies.


The impetus of the CPSC project was a 2019 report (PSL, 5/27/19) by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), which found it unlikely feasible for CPSC to address OFRs as a single class of chemicals. Rather, it suggested 14 subclasses.


The report stemmed from a 2015 petition (PSL, 4/13/15) that sought a ban of non-polymeric, additive OFRs in children's products, mattresses/mattress pads, electronics enclosures, and residential furniture. It is the last category that raised questions about the TB-117 mandate, included in the recently passed FY2021 federal budget (PSL, 1/4/21).


The just-beginning CPSC project is funded with $1.5 million (PSL, 7/6/20) under the agency's operating plan passed by commissioners in mid-November (PSL, 11/16/20).


Staff will have to navigate numerous multi-step processes, but the work – more broadly – will cover seven areas:

  • Creating and keeping a list of OFR chemicals, including the NASEM approach using 14 subclasses.

  • Starting a scope document for each subclass, determining data and technical needs, and seeking public feedback.

  • Running parallel, class-based risk assessments, starting with scope documents and moving to new data generation.

  • Considering "new approach methodologies" for toxicity estimates but also using human and animal data.

  • Creating and keeping sets of procedures and best practices to identify, search, and extracting exposure/toxicity data.

  • Identifying all OFR uses in consumer products as well as industrial/commercial-only uses and phased out uses.

  • Using lessons learned for plan updates and suggestions.