Review EIPC-EFRA-CEFIC Workshop

3 March 2015

Flame Retardants Workshop February 4, 2015

On the day preceding its Winter Conference in Munich, EIPC, in cooperation with EFRA hosted a workshop on ‘flame retardants in the electronics industry’.

A room-full of expertise and authority, with a common interest in the legislation surrounding the use of flame retardants, was welcomed by EIPC Chairman Alun Morgan. The group discussed and exchanged views about the EU legislative framework and its possible impact on future printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing in Europe.


EIPC/EFRA Workshop introduction

An introduction by Philippe Salemis, EFRA Director, was followed by Professor Martin Goosey, EIPC Vice-President of Technology, who gave an overview of environmental legislation and its impacts, based on his many years’ experience with flame retardant materials and his keen interest in sustainability, which he defined as: “Meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”


Prof. Goosey then summarised the drivers for legislation with some statistics surrounding Europe’s growing WEEE output, other pertinent legislation including the RoHS Directive, the Batteries and Accumulators Directive, the Energy-Using Products Directive and the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive. Not least, he referred to the REACH Regulation which aims to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment from risks posed by chemicals.

Prof. Martin Goosey, EIPC

It was RoHS that had had the main impact of producer-responsibility on the PCB industry: lead was proscribed, requiring the use of lead-free solders which have led to elevated compliance costs for  industry and technical challenges. Higher operating temperatures and inferior mechanical properties of lead-free solders raised questions about the reliability of PCB assemblies.

While the brominated flame retardants industry has experienced recent restrictions to several of the earlier FR substances, Alun Morgan’s presentation began with the stark background of reality upon which to explain the primary purpose of flame retardants – to reduce the risk of fire related fatalities. He made reference to statistics in Europe alone, where 4,500 deaths occurred annually as a result of fires, accounting for 2% of all fatal injuries.

The presence of flame retardants in otherwise combustible materials had the effect either of preventing the fire from developing altogether or of slowing down the propagation of flames and therefore extending the all-needed escape time. Using television enclosures as an example, Morgan illustrated the effect of removing flame retardants on the rate at which a fire could take hold.

Alun Morgan, EIPC

He described the different classes of flame retardants and explained the physics and chemistry of how they worked. For example, in printed circuit boards a commonly used flame retardant is tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA), which is chemically reacted and incorporated into epoxy resin during the manufacturing process of the PCB. In the case of a fire the flame retardants act in the gas phase of the combustion, meaning it takes energy out of the process which ultimately slows down or stops the combustion. The toxicology of TBBPA had been exhaustively studied and no evidence of risk to human health had been observed. TBBPA was one of the first substances to have been registered under the REACH regulations.

The principal non-halogenated alternative to TBBPA as a reactive flame retardant in epoxy resins is the phosphorus compound dihydro-oxa-phosphaphenanthrene-oxide (DOPO). When heated phosphorus compounds release a polymeric form of phosphoric acid. This

acid causes the material to char, forming a glassy carbon-containing layer, and thus inhibiting the combustion process.

Florian Kohl from the EFRA member company Albemarle, gave an overview of recent developments related to the ongoing methodology development for possible future substance assessments under the RoHS II Directive. Throughout this process, EFRA has been an actively involved participant, providing constructive feedback and technical information to the involved stakeholders and authorities.

Dr. Florian Kohl, Albemarle

The following discussions were led by Lein Tange, Product Stewardship Manager at ICL Industrial Products and whose main responsibility includes end-of-life programmes, recycling and recovery for WEEE plastics. He presented information related to the thermal recovery or incineration of plastic materials, including PCBs. He explained that the formation of halogenated dioxins and furans in standard waste incinerators is mostly not linked the presence of the bromine-containing waste. In contrast to waste treatments in Europe, illegal export of waste to third countries and uncontrolled open-pit burning of WEEE in these countries impacts negatively human health and the environment and needs to be avoided.

Lein Tange, ICL-IP

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