Electronics Standards

Introduction

Problem: The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) sets worldwide standards for electronics which adequately protect against ignition inside electronic devices. Flame retardant producers have led a long series of efforts for an external “candle standard” which would be met by the use of flame retardants chemicals in the outer casings of computers, TVs, and other electronics. These proposals were rejected in 2008, 2012 and 2013 due to their lack of valid fire safety rationale and the potential for serious health and ecological harm from the chemicals used to meet them. Adding flame retardants to plastic enclosures would also make the recycling of electronics more difficult or, in many cases, impossible. However, flame retardant industry efforts for such harmful and ineffective standards continue in 2014.

  • Current rigorous standards governing the safe functioning of electronic equipment are effective and sufficient.
  • Based on statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, a new standard protecting electronics against candle fires is not warranted.
  • A “candle standard” amendment would bring hundreds of millions of pounds of potentially toxic flame retardant chemicals into consumers’ homes each year.

Whitepaper: The case against candle resistant electronics

Our 2008 whitepaper describes, with references, why “candle standard” amendments do not provide significant fire safety benefits but do present serious health and environmental risks.

Regular updates to this paper have continued in the years since. View the most recent version from January 2014.

Flame retardants added to electronics cases: The path from product to people

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Findings from our whitepaper

Fire Safety

  • Current rigorous standards governing the safe functioning of electronic equipment are effective and sufficient.
  • Based on statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, a new standard protecting electronics against candle fires is not warranted.
  • A “candle standard” amendment would bring hundreds of millions of pounds of potentially toxic flame retardant chemicals into consumers’ homes each year.
  • Many flame retardants used to meet “candle” standards are known to harm human health and ecosystems. They also prevent electronics recycling.

Flame Retardant Chemicals

  • Flame retardants used in electronics cases are found in house dust and human fat, blood, and breast milk worldwide.
  • The chemicals that have been studied disrupt hormones, lower fertility, and cause abnormal development of the brain and reproductive system in animals.
  • The addition of flame retardant chemicals to plastic cases makes responsible electronics recycling more difficult.
  • If plastic cases are burned, halogenated flame retardants form toxic and cancer-causing by-products, which are especially of concern for firefighters, who suffer from high cancer rates.

Read the full white paper.

Widespread agreement in opposition to new candle standard

Fire Service Professionals

“We have reviewed the fire data cited in support of [the proposed amendment] and do not find a valid fire-safety rationale for this standard…While the fire risk is very low, the health risk, especially for fire fighters, is very high.”

–U.S. fire fighters and burn prevention organizations

Read the full letter

Scientists and Health Care Professionals

“These toxic flame retardants cross the placenta, meaning babies are born with these chemicals in their bodies and are further exposed because the chemicals accumulate in breast milk.”

–35 physicians and scientists

Read the full letter

Non-profit and Public Interest

“…well-known risk of these toxic substances migrating from TVs into the indoor environment where they partition to house dust and create an indoor health hazard.”

–Canadian Environmental Law Association

Read the full letter

Additional Resources

Science & Policy Blog: Electronics Standards

Are flame retardants the secret ingredient in your home-cooked meals…

A new study has found that brominated flame retardants are present in black thermo cups and kitchen utensils bought in Europe. These types of chemicals have been linked t…

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Another unneeded "candle" standard defeated

Once again, proposed European for external candle flame requirements for television enclosures were defeated. This is the sixth time since 2008 that GSP and our NGO colle…

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Yet another "candle" standard for TV enclosures rejected in Europe

Based in part on the hard work of our coalition this April, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, UK, Italy, Sweden, Greece and the Czech Republic reject…

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Presentations: Electronics Standards

EU flammability standards and ENFIRO

Speaker: Pim Leonards, Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands Event Cairns Science and Policy of Flame R…

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