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EU Directives on the use of FR additives in plastics components

Directive 2003/11/EC, banning the flame retardant additives, penta bromo diphenyl ether, and octa bromo diphenyl ether, or any other substance containing more than 0.1% of these substances, from all uses after August 2004.

Directive 2000/53/EC - The ELV Directive, controlling the recovery and recycling of End-of-Life Vehicles.

Directive 2002/96/EC - The WEEE Directive, controlling the recovery and recycling of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, and its associate Directive.

Directive 2002/95/EC -The restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, which will restrict the use of substances considered hazardous to health in electrical and electronic equipment from July 2006.

The first of these Directives, 2003/11/EC, is part of an ongoing risk reduction strategy by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union. As well as the penta and octa bromo diphenyl ethers, it also indirectly restricts the use of deca bromo diphenyl ether, which must contain less than 0.1% of these substances.

All of these substances are to be banned from use in electrical and electronic equipment from July 2006 by the last Directive, 2002/95/EC, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (abbreviated to the RoHS Directive), but with the following provisos: Medical devices and monitoring and control equipment (categories 8 and 9) included in the WEEE Directive, are specifically excluded from the RoHS Directive, but household light bulbs and luminaries, excluded from the WEEE Directive, are included in the RoHS Directive.

On the 13th October 2005, the European Union accepted that, after ten years of study, Deca Bromo Diphenyl Ether (DecaBDE) is safe to continue to be used as a frame retardant in plastics. Deca Bromo Diphenyl Ether is therefore exempted from Directive 2002/95/EC - The Restriction of Hazardous substances, and as a consequence, also from the Directive 2002/96/EC - the WEEE Directive.

For equipment covered by the RoHS Directive, manufacturers must restrict the following substances to a minimal prescribed level, these being: lead (Pb), hexavalent chromium (Cr+ 6), mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), except for Deca Bromo Diphenyl Ether (DecaBDE).

The WEEE Directive, as currently written, requires that 'any components taken from electrical and electronic equipment containing Brominated Flame Retardant Additives be separated out for treatment', which will put an onus on moulders to have some form of material identification stamped on the tool, e.g. ABS FR Bromine. However, there is a move to have this clause changed to 'all components containing FR additives', and this, coupled with ease of dismantling requirements, will increasingly necessitate tool stamping for component identification at the dismantling stage.

There is a further proposed Directive, 2005/.../EEC, ( the Phthalates Directive) which as yet has no implementation date, but its provisions will be added to Annex 1 of Directive 76/769/EEC, the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations.

This directive will have the effect of prohibiting completely the use of three phthalate plasticisers in all toys and childcare articles, and prohibiting the use of three other phthalate plasticisers in toys and childcare articles intended for children under three years of age and which would be placed in their mouths. The phthalates concerned are: Di 2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) which are classed as reprotoxic. However, in April 2006, the EU has now declared that DINP and DIDP are safe and pose no risk to either human health or the environment.

Directive 2005/.../EEC
will be introduced at the earliest towards the end of 2006, but a temporary ban has been in existence in the UK since 1999 on these six phthalates (now reduced to four), and, with its immediate addition to Directive 76/768/EEC, becomes a European wide regulation.