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Great Lakes to cease production of Penta-PDBE flame retardant by end 2004

Great Lakes Chemical Corporation : 20 November, 2003  (Company News)
Great Lakes Chemical Corporationc will voluntarily cease production of two widely-used flame retardant chemicals, penta- and octa- polybrominated diphenyl ether, by the end of 2004 and replace Penta-PBDE with a new product called Firemaster 550.
Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, citing years of research, advances in technology and a favourable environmental assessment by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of what the company calls the “new generation” of flame retardants, will voluntarily cease production of two widely-used flame retardant chemicals, penta- and octa- polybrominated diphenyl ether, by the end of 2004. Great Lakes will replace Penta-PBDE with a new product called Firemaster 550.

The voluntary phase-out of penta and octa follows the EPA’s assessment that the penta replacement has a favourable environmental profile, in that it is not persistent, bioaccumulative or eco-toxic. In addition, tests have shown that Firemaster 550 is highly effective in providing flame retardant protection to foam products like those commonly found in furniture. Firemaster 550 also meets or exceeds the UL-94 (Underwriters Laboratory Flammability Standard) and California Technical Bulletin 117 flame retardancy standards.

“Firemaster 550 is the first in a new generation of environmentally responsive solutions that exceed the highest of standards for fire safety performance,” said Mark Bulriss, CEO of Great Lakes Chemical Corporation. “Years of scientific study have demonstrated that our current range of fire retardant chemicals for foam and plastics is both safe and effective. These products have saved thousands of lives. However, due to the effectiveness of this new product, Great Lakes is in a position to proactively work with customers to transition away from Penta-PBDE in an orderly manner years ahead of schedule.”

Great Lakes has led the effort to develop the next generation of cost-effective, environmentally responsive, fire safety endorsed flame retardants. The EPA’s assessment, combined with exhaustive internal reviews and technological breakthroughs by Great Lakes, made the accelerated phase-out of Penta-PBDE possible.

Firemaster 550 has commercial applications beyond those of the products it will replace. Because of its physical properties, Firemaster 550 can now be used as a flame retardant in foams found in automobile headliners, sneakers, padding commonly used on beds, packaging foams, and insulation and acoustic foams.

Firemaster 550: Factsheet

* The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed preliminary studies of the penta replacement and determined that it does not meet the standards that would necessitate categorising it as a PBT. This means that the new product is not Persistent in the environment, Bioaccumulative in organisms or Eco-Toxic.

* The EPA based its finding on data from five studies that the agency required and Great Lakes agreed to have conducted by independent researchers. The results of those studies became available in the summer of 2003. The studies included Aquatic Toxicity, Fish Bioaccumulation, Porous Pot Biodegradation, Dioxin Formation and Shake Flask Die-away Biodegradation. The tests were designed to measure Persistence, Bioaccumulation and Toxicity.

* As a result of these studies, the following conclusions were reached:

1. Persistence: EPA considers a chemical with a half-life of more than 120 days to be Persistent, and less than 60 days to be not a concern. Firemaster 550 has a half-life of less than 60 days.

2. Bioaccumulation: EPA considers a chemical with a BCF (Bioaccumulation Factor) of more than 5000 to be Bioaccumulative, and less than 1000 to be not a concern. Firemaster 550 has a BCF of less than 1000.

3. Toxicity: The EPA has determined that it is not concerned about the aquatic toxicity of the Penta-PBDE replacement because of its extremely low water solubility, which prevents the product from reaching concentration levels that could be toxic to aquatic life.

* The EPA has concluded that PBDEs do not constitute a risk to the public, while conceding that there is growing public concern about the Persistence and Bioaccumulation of penta products. Accordingly, Great Lakes Chemical Corporation has decided to proactively work with customers to transition away from Penta-PBDE in an orderly manner, years ahead of any legislatively-mandated deadlines. The development of Firemaster 550, coupled with the EPA’s favourable environmental assessment, made this accelerated transition possible.

* The EPA also stated that Firemaster 550 provides important fire safety protection. Firemaster 550 allows customers to make foam that meets both UL-94 standards (Underwriters Laboratory Flammability Standards), as well as the California Technical Bulletin 117 standards.

* Firemaster 550 has certain commercial applications that are superior to the penta-based products it will replace. Because of its physical and chemical properties, Firemaster 550 can now be used for flame lamination in products such as automobile headliners. It can also be used as a fire retardant in insulation foam, packaging foam and acoustical foam.

* Great Lakes Chemical Corporation is currently working with its customers to ease the transition from penta-PBDE to Firemaster 550. We are providing technical support, training and on-site assistance to ensure that customers understand the new product. To date, all of our customers who are transitioning to Firemaster 550 have requested and received on-site technical assistance during their first trial pouring of foam.

* Great Lakes Chemical Corporation will provide customers with a product known as Great Lakes FF-680 as a replacement for Octa-PBDE. Great Lakes Chemical Corporation has produced Great Lakes FF-680 for at least 25 years. It is used in computer housings and business machine housings, such as printers, copiers and keyboards. Great Lakes FF-680 has superior UV stability and flow and impact properties. It is not a PBDE. According to the latest data, Great Lakes FF-680 has a more favourable profile than Octa-PBDE for bioaccumulation and eco-toxicity.
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