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Chemical Regulation

US EPA confirms risks of brominated flame retardants

by Britt E. Erickson
June 30, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 24


Chemical structure of hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).

Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and similar cyclic brominated flame retardants pose unreasonable risks to human health and the environment, the US Environmental Protection Agency concludes in a revised risk assessment released June 29. HBCD is one of the first 10 chemicals the agency is evaluating under the 2016 revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA first finalized the evaluation for HBCD in September 2020, finding risks to workers and the environment. But the agency revamped its process for evaluating the risks of chemicals last year. One of the changes involves determining the risks of a chemical overall—what the agency calls a whole chemical approach—rather than of each particular use. The agency also now assesses exposure to chemicals in air and water, as well as from land disposal, all of which it previously ignored. In addition, the EPA no longer assumes that workers wear personal protective equipment. HBCD has multiple uses, including in building insulation, solder paste, recycled plastics, and automobile parts, according to the EPA. The chemical is persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic, and it has irreversible health effects, the agency says. The EPA is now moving ahead to manage the risks for specific uses of HBCD.


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