The federal government released a plan yesterday to effectively ban a widely used chemical used as a flame retardant in televisions, computers and other electronics after determining its detrimental effects on the environment outweigh the benefit of slowing the spread of fires.
The Department of Environment stated in a formal notice of pending regulations that DecaBDE, part of a family of synthetic chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants, or PBDEs, has become so ubiquitous in the environment that this step in electronic equipment is needed because “they have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity.”
Environment Canada is proposing to limit the concentration of DecaBDE to 0.1% by weight.
George Enei, acting director-general of science and risk assessment, said it would be “technically” possible for an electronic manufacturer to add the flame retardant.
But he said the ministry is working with the industry to provide a better substitute. “This is the level whereby its release would not pose a harm to the environment.”
The Health Department also announced a 60-day consultation to bring in controls “on DecaBDE in domestic and imported manufactured products.”
Environmental Defence, which has been lobbying for a ban and highlighting safe alternatives, says there is enough evidence to identify DecaBDE as a developmental toxin affecting the brain, immune, reproductive and hormonal systems. The breakdown begins during normal use of products, which makes household dust the largest exposure source and of particular concern to small children, policy director Aaron Freeman said.