part of the plastic—it won’t bleed out of the host polymer over time, because the polymer chain of the host polymer bonds to the FR polymer. The two polymers mix and the chains link tightly so that there is no migration.
“That also means that you don’t lose the FR properties over time and, at the same time, you don’t expose anyone to any chemicals. FRX was founded on the basis of solving those two issues,” said Lebel. “We’re halogen free—the only halogen-free polymer in the world. We have found over time that our Nofia co-polymer line also has properties beyond flame retardency. For example, when our customer PolyVision wanted to make an FR PET material but didn’t want to lose the original properties of their PET material, they chose our Nofia FR. With our product, all the properties of the original PET are retained, and PolyVision’s DuraPET products permanently maintain flame retardency, which does not migrate out of the PET.”
Fighting the hype and misinformation that surrounds flame retardants in plastics is not easy or cheap, Lebel told me. But the company keeps trying. FRX is a founding member of PINFA (Phosphorus Inorganic Nitrogen Flame Retardant Association), which educates OEMs and consumers about flame retardancy and the fact that not all FRs are created equal.
The American Chemistry Council has an excellent page on flame retardants with a video featuring Bob Howell, Professor of Chemistry at Central Michigan University. Another video on that same page shows two TVs, one with a flame retardant that will not burn despite repeated attempts to ignite it, and another without flame retardant in the plastic housing that is on fire.
“Plastics that come into contact with electricity or electronic components must be flame retardant,” Lebel stressed.
Of the 12 TVs tested by Toxic-Free Future, 11 contained flame retardants at concentrations of up to 33% of the weight of the plastic housing. Two of the TVs contained PBDE flame retardant (deca-BDE), “despite being banned in five states: Washington, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Maryland.” Only one TV tested by the group, made by Insignia, did not contain any of the FRs.
“There are really good solutions that can do the job of flame retardency without toxic effects,” said Lebel. “We believe that it’s a false narrative that some green chemistry people promote that you can’t have fire safety in plastics and be environmentally safe simultaneously. We reject that as a premise. You can have flame retardency and environmentally safe products. Ours is the only halogen-free polymeric FR material. In fact, FRX won a sustainability award from the EPA for the development of the Nofia product line. We’re trying to get the message to resin producers and compounders that this is available.”
Safer Chemicals noted that Dr. Mark Rossi, Executive Director of Clean Production Action, stated, “the testing results highlight the need for manufacturers to understand the toxicity of chemicals in their products and to use tools like GreenScreen (a company that certifies safe chemicals) to identify safer alternatives and avoid regrettable substitutes.”
According to the Safer Chemicals report, only two companies publicly