Frequently Asked Questions on Organohalogen Flame Retardants (OFRs)
On September 20, 2017, the Commission voted to grant Petition HP 15-1 to initiate rulemaking under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) (15 U.S.C. 1261), and direct staff to convene a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) pursuant to the procedures set forth in section 28 of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2077) to assess and issue a report on the risks to consumers' health and safety from the use of additive, non-polymeric organohalogen flame retardants ("OFRs"), as a class of chemicals, in the following products: (1) durable infant or toddler products, children's toys, child care articles or other children's products (other than children's car seats); (2) upholstered furniture sold for use in residences; (3) mattresses and mattress pads; and ( 4) plastic casings surrounding electronics.
The Commission also directed staff to publish in the Federal Register a guidance document on hazardous additive, non-polymeric organohalogen flame retardants in certain consumer products. The guidance document Commission Guidance Document on Hazardous Additive, Non-polymeric Organohalogen Flame Retardants in Certain Consumer Products was published in the Federal Register on September 28, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 45268).
These frequently asked questions address inquires the CPSC has received since that vote.
- QUESTION: Has the CPSC banned additive (non-reactive), non-polymeric, organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs)?
RESPONSE: No. The Commission voted to grant a petition to initiate rulemaking under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) and also directed staff to convene a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) under section 28 of the Consumer Product Safety Act. The petition requested that the rulemaking prohibit OFRs in the following products: (1) durable infant or toddler products, children’s toys, child care articles or other children’s products (other than children’s car seats that remain solely in a car); (2) upholstered furniture sold for use in residences; (3) mattresses and mattress pads; and (4) plastic casings surrounding electronics. The Commission’s vote begins a rulemaking proceeding that could result in prohibiting certain products that contain additive (non-reactive), non-polymeric organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs).
- QUESTION: Will the Commission seek public comment on any actions it potentially may take with respect to OFRs?
RESPONSE: Yes. Any proposed CPSC regulatory action will be subject to public notice and comment rulemaking procedures in which the public will have the opportunity to submit comments to the Commission before any final action.
- QUESTION: Is the Commission Guidance Document on Hazardous Additive, Non-polymeric Organohalogen Flame Retardants in Certain Consumer Products, 82 Fed. Reg. 45268 (September 28, 2017) binding?
RESPONSE: No. The guidance is not a binding or enforceable rule and would not change any person’s rights, duties, or obligations under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act or any other Act administered by the Commission.
- QUESTION: Is there a list of OFRs covered by the Commission guidance?
RESPONSE: No. The Commission approved a statement that provides guidance on organohalogen flame retardants in an additive form. The guidance does not refer to or list specific OFRs.
- QUESTION: May manufacturers use OFRs in children’s products, upholstered furniture, mattresses and mattress pads, and in plastic casings surrounding electronics?
RESPONSE: The Commission does not have any rule prohibiting OFRs in these products.
- QUESTION: Does the Commission require precautionary labeling for products that contain OFRs?
RESPONSE: No. The Commission has not required products containing OFRs to bear precautionary labeling.
- QUESTION: In its Guidance document, the Commission uses the term “plastic casings surrounding electronics.” What is meant by this term?
RESPONSE: The common industry definition for “casings” in this context is “fire enclosure” and is found in the voluntary standards UL 60950-1, Information Technology Equipment - Safety - Part 1, and UL 60065, Standard for Audio, Video and Similar Electronic Apparatus - Safety Requirements. The two standards define “fire enclosure” as “part of the equipment intended to minimize the spread of fire or flames from within.”
- QUESTION: Does the targeted scope of electronics casing consist of electronics only?
RESPONSE: The guidance leaves it to manufacturers to determine the appropriate scope and actions to take with respect to consumer products that may contain organohalogen flame retardants in an additive form. Voluntary standards, such as UL 60950-1 and UL 60065, provide further guidance manufacturers may wish to consider.
- QUESTION: In its Guidance document, the Commission indicates that the term “household products” was used based on FHSA, 15 U.S.C. 1261. How does the Commission define this term?
RESPONSE: The FHSA does not define “household product.” However, under section 2(p) of the FHSA, a hazardous substance “intended, or packaged in a form suitable, for use in the household or by children” must be labeled in accordance with that section. In addition, under section 2(q)(1) of the FHSA, the Commission can issue a regulation banning a hazardous substance “intended, or packaged in a form suitable, for use in the household” if the Commission determines that labeling does not adequately protect the public. The Commission has a regulation (16 C.F.R. § 1500.3(c)(10)(i)) that provides additional explanation of the statutory phrase “Hazardous substances intended, or packaged in a form suitable, for use in the household.
Where can I find additional information?
For more information, please contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Office of Compliance (for specific enforcement inquires): e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone: (800) 638-2772.
- Small Business Ombudsman (for general assistance understanding and complying with CPSC regulations): e-mail: Please use our Contact Form, which is the best way to get a fast response; telephone: (888) 531-9070.