Flame Retardant Plastics in Electronics

Among the many uses of flame retardants in electrical and electronic equipment, additive, non-polymeric organohalogen flame retardants play a critical fire safety role in the plastic casings of electronics.

Studies demonstrate that flame retardants in the plastic casings of electronic products increase consumer product safety by regularly preventing short circuits and overheating components from becoming fires.1Source: Special Chem. Flame Retardants for Fire Proof Plastics. Learn More.,2Source: Craftech. Learn More.,3Source: “Designing with Polymers,” Elements40, Issue 3/2012, Evonik Industries, 6-12. Learn More.

One study, in particular, evaluated televisions meeting U.S. standards for flammability against other less stringent fire safety standards in Brazil and Mexico and found that televisions manufactured for the U.S. market were more resistant to external ignition than the others.4Source: Blais, M., and Carpenter, K. 2014. Combustion Characteristics of Flat Panel Televisions With and Without Fire Retardants in the Casing. Fire and Technology 51: 19-40.

Notably, in four out of the six trials from the study, the external casings of the televisions with flame retardants did not achieve sustained ignition. In the instances when ignition did occur, it required more than 10 times the energy to cause flame retardant televisions to ignite.

Flame Retardants Are an Important Tool to Help Reduce Electronics Fire Risk 

The average home contains more than 20 electronic products, including televisions, smartphones, computers, gaming systems and tablets.5CTA. Energy Consumption of Consumer Electronics in U.S. Homes in 2013. These devices are embedded into our everyday lives, yet they could not be used safely if it weren’t for flame retardants. 

Have you ever noticed sparks, overheating, melting, or smoke from an electrical device?

Flame retardants are one of the key reasons these failures may not escalate into something more serious like a home or office fire.

Flame retardants not only reduce the risk of a fire starting, but also the risk of the fire spreading, leaving more time for people to escape and more time for emergency personnel to respond.

Flame Retardants Toolkit:

Different Products Require Different Chemical Compounds 

Not all flame retardants are the same. Plastics and other materials where flame retardants are used are widely different in their inherent properties and in roles they serve in their products. Similarly, flame retardants are a widely diverse set of chemicals that vary by functionality and application. They all help to inhibit or suppress fire ignition — no ignition, no fire. Specific flame retardants are included in electronics products based on product attributes, properties, use, and potential ignition threats.

Meeting Safety Standards and Environmental Stewardship 

The electronics industry works with governments, standards-setting bodies, and other stakeholders to continuously evaluate the materials it uses in its products to ensure safety standards and environmental stewardship requirements are met. Regulatory bodies — such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), as well as standard-setting organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Code Council (ICC), and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) — test, approve, or oversee the safe use of flame retardants and the products where they are used.