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Brominated flame retardants: their potential impacts and routes into the environment

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Purpose ‐ To give an overview of the mechanisms by which brominated flame retardants (BFRs) used in the electronics industry enter, and are transported, in the environment. The potential impacts of BFRs on living organisms are also outlined. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper provides an explanation of the environmental issues and impacts on living organisms of BFRs that are used extensively in electrical and electronic applications. It is compiled using information from examples of the published literature and seeks to give an explanation for the increasing pressure on the electronics industry to limit the use of BFRs and to introduce non-halogenated alternatives. Findings ‐ Despite typically being incorporated into thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers, BFRs have been found to enter the environment and to accumulate in regions of the world. The mechanisms by which this migration can occur are complex and influenced by a wide variety of factors. However, such migration has lead to BFRs being found in areas such as the artic, which are far from their original source. They are also able to accumulate up the food chain where they can become concentrated enough to cause health problems for mammals and humans. Research limitations/implications ‐ This short review paper can only provide an introduction to how BFRs enter the environment. Nevertheless, there is a growing amount of evidence that BFRs can have a negative impact in the environment and it seems likely that this will lead to calls for the further restriction of these undoubtedly valuable materials. Originality/value ‐ The paper gives an introduction to the fate of BFRs and discusses how they are able to migrate from the products they are used to protect and into the environment. Their accumulation in the food web and impact on living organisms are also discussed.
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Keywords: Electronics industry; Flame retardants; Transportation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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