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Intention Announced to Restrict Placing on the Market of Childcare Articles, Furniture and Textiles Containing Certain Flame Retardant

On 6 June 2018, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) submitted an intention to restrict three flame retardants in flexible polyurethane (PUR) foams used, among others, in childcare articles and residential upholstered furniture. The restriction may also cover mattresses for adults, and textiles in other articles.

The ECHA Registry of restriction intentions contains those substances for which a submission of a “restriction” dossier is intended. ECHA will prepare restriction dossiers proposing a restriction of the flame retardants tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), tris(2-chloro-1-methylethyl) phosphate (TCPP) and tris[2-chloro-1-(chloromethyl)ethyl] phosphate (TDCP). The submission is expected on 12 April 2019.

TCEP, TCPP and TDCP are organophosphate flame retardants. The three substances are being treated as a group because they are structurally and toxicologically similar and they have similar uses.

TCPP is an all-round flame retardant for all types of flexible PUR foams. The registered volume of TCPP under REACH is 10,000-100,000 tonnes per year. The more expensive substance, TDCP, is used mainly in the automotive industry. The registered volume of TDCP under REACH is 1,000-10,000 tonnes per year.

TCEP is currently not used within the EU. However, it may be present as an impurity in other commercial flame retardants or in imported articles. TCEP is already included in the REACH Candidate List of substances of very high concern (SVHC). It is therefore subject to (among others) the consumer’s right to know, as stipulated by REACH Article 33.

The entry into the registry of restriction intentions follows a screening report, by which ECHA has conducted an assessment of whether the use of TCEP, TCPP and TDCP should be restricted. The report prepared by ECHA studies the effects on fertility, the carcinogenicity, and the neurotoxicity as well as the endocrine effects, of the substances.

The exposure assessment was conducted with regard to migration rates, oral and dermal exposure as well as inhalation. Aggregated exposure was also taken into account as a worst-case scenario. The highest risk was identified for baby mattresses, since they are most likely to cause aggregated exposure.

The article types targeted by the screening report assessing the exposure of infants to TCEP, TCPP and TDCP contained in flexible PUR foam in childcare articles were baby mattresses, safety seats, baby slings and sofas. However, in the context of the preparation of the restriction report, exposure from other uses and article groups may be taken into consideration. Therefore, Hong Kong producers of child care articles may wish to note that a presence of the flame retardants is also deemed possible in other articles such as pushchairs, prams, carry cots, high seats and baby changing mats.

In addition, other exposure populations, such as adults, may be considered during preparation of the restriction report. Furthermore, the flame retardants in toys for children older than three are not restricted by the current restriction under the Toy Safety Directive, except for those toys that are intended to be placed in the mouth. Therefore, the scope of the restriction proposal may be widened to include them as well.

The screening report identified risks for children from exposure to the flame retardants TCEP, TCPP and TDCP in flexible PUR foams. In particular, a risk for carcinogenicity from exposure to infants was identified for all three types of flame retardants. TCEP and TCPP were furthermore identified as toxic for reproduction.

Baby mattresses were identified as carrying the highest carcinogenicity risk for infants, due to the large contact surface area and long duration of contact. A risk of negative effects on reproduction from TCEP and TCPP in mattresses was also identified. The report stated that mattresses for adults may need to be included as well since infants often sleep in their parents’ bed.

During the preparation of a restriction proposal, stakeholders will have the opportunity to submit information. Hong Kong businesses may wish to do so, since the participation of industry may provide ECHA with additional information to take into consideration, e.g. alternatives and substitutions. It will help ECHA to assess the necessity of derogations and their socio-economic justification. Furthermore, stakeholder participation is necessary in order to obtain eventual exemptions.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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