What is hexabromocyclododecane?
Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) is brominated flame retardant often used in polystyrene insulation foam. It can also be applied to other purposes such as upholstered furniture, car interiors and many forms of packaging material.
Over the past decade HBCDD has been included on various lists of substances of concern and was identified as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) by the Stockholm Convention, being included in the Convention’s Annex A for elimination. Persistent organic pollutants are toxic chemical substances that are resistant to breakdown and can therefore enter food chains, resulting in potential impacts on human health and the environment. Accordingly, the manufacture, sale and use of products containing POPs are now banned, although there are exceptional circumstances where materials or products that contain POPs can be used.
Which legislation affects this?
Since HBCDD has been identified as a POP, legislation needed to be updated to reflect this. The Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/460, which came into force on 30 September 2016, amends Annexes IV and V to Regulation (EC) No 850/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on persistent organic pollutants.
What are the specific changes in the legislation and what will this mean for clients?
The Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/460 prohibits the manufacture, supply and use of HBCDD.
Use of HBCDD to produce expanded polystyrene (EPS) is allowed to continue within the EU if it is covered by a valid authorisation under the EU REACH Regulation until 26 November 2019 and must be identifiable by labelling or other means throughout its life cycle.
Importantly for our clients, unidentified EPS and extruded polystyrene (XPS) that goes to landfill now needs to be tested for the presence of HBCDD. Material containing >100mg/kg of HBCDD should not be landfilled or recycled and should be destroyed in accordance with the Persistent Organic Pollutants Regulations 2007.
Are there any exceptions to this?
Under this legislation the manufacture, supply and use of HBCDD to produce expanded polystyrene (EPS) is allowed to continue within the EU if it is covered by a valid authorisation under the EU REACH Regulation.
Likewise, EPS that contains HBCDD and has been produced under a REACH authorisation may be supplied and used in buildings until six months after the authorisation expires. EPS articles already in use by that date may continue to be used. Furthermore, EPS that contains HBCDD may be imported from outside the EU and used as long as a valid REACH authorisation exists for HBCDD use in EPS within the EU.
In addition, all HBCDD-containing EPS that is produced or imported after 22 March 2016 must be labelled or otherwise identified throughout its life cycle to show that it contains HBCDD. Whereas, any other HBCDD-containing articles that were in use on 22 March 2016 may continue to be used and may be re-sold.
How can people unintentionally fall foul of the updated legislation?
This is easier than people might think, for example someone could accidentally send building rubble that contains EPS or XPS to landfill. Likewise, electrical appliances, packaging, textile coatings and upholstered furniture could also be sent to landfill containing HBCDD without the duty holder being aware. My advice would be, if in doubt, test it. The price for a suite of HBCDD tests will be much lower than the potential impact of contaminated waste being sent to landfill.
How does ESG test for HBCDD in foam and what are the benefits?
Duty of Care of course requires that all waste be properly described and classified and it is down to the duty holder to ensure that this is the case. In situations where it is likely, or even suspected, that HBCDD is present in materials then it is always safest to have them tested by a laboratory.
Our HBCDD analysis is carried out by solvent extraction of the foam, followed by Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) to identify and quantify the HBCDD level, which is then reported back to the client.
Along with our HBCDD suite of tests, we also screen by headspace GC/MS to determine the presence of fluorinated greenhouse gases (CFCs) in insulation foams, including Polyurethanes and Polyisocyanurates. If it is not considered feasible to recover the fluorinated greenhouse gases from the foams then the material should be considered hazardous waste and disposed of accordingly.
Looking for more information on HBCDD?
For more information and advice on HBCDD please contact us.