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Flame Retardants in Printed Circuit Boards Partnership

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Flame Retardants in Printed Circuit Boards Partnership - Logo
Draft for Public Comment
The comment period for the draft report, Partnership to Evaluate Flame Retardants in Printed Circuit Boards (PDF) (273 pp, 7.41MB, About PDF), is now over. This report contains a summary of the environmental and human health attributes of selected flame retardants used in printed circuit boards. We are now working to review the comments received. Thank you for your input.

Circuit boards are commonly found in electronics in consumer and industrial products, including computers and cell phones. Manufacturers commonly produce circuit boards with flame-retardant chemicals to help ensure fire safety. Some flame-retardant chemicals, however, can be harmful if released into the environment. To better understand the issue, the electronics industry is engaging with other stakeholders in a partnership with Design for the Environment to better understand the full range of options for flame retarding circuit boards.

Currently, over 90 percent of the printed circuit boards produced meet the UL 94 VO standard for fire safety. This is achieved by the use of brominated epoxy resins in which the reactive flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) forms part of the polymeric backbone of the resin. These UL 94 V0 compliant boards are referred to as FR-4 boards, which also must meet other performance specifications as well. More information about the UL 94 V0 fire safety standard for printed circuit boards Exit Disclaimer is available at http://www.ul.com/plastics/flame.html.

Alternative flame retardant materials are used in only 3-5 percent of the current FR-4 boards, but additional alternative flame retardant materials are also under development. Little information exists concerning the potential environmental and human health impacts of the materials which are being developed as alternatives to those used today that are based on brominated epoxy resins. Environmental and human health impacts can occur throughout the life cycle of a material, from development and manufacture, through product use and finally at end of life of the material or product. In addition to understanding these potential impacts associated with flame retardant chemicals, stakeholders have expressed a particular interest in understanding the combustion products that could be formed during certain end of life scenarios.

The electronics industry is forming this partnership to develop information that will improve their understanding of the environmental and human health impacts of new and current materials that can be used to meet the fire safety requirements for circuit boards. This information will be presented to allow industry to consider these impacts along with cost and performance of circuit boards as they review alternative materials and technologies. The participation of all relevant stakeholders is critical to developing the information for this partnership.

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