Flame Retardants and TSCA: What’s New?

Posted on Behalf of  Claire M. Hamaji, Lauren Gloekler

In 2016, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was updated by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The new law included a fast-track process for addressing chemicals deemed to be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT). In January, 2021, EPA finalized rules concerning five PBT chemicals. Three flame retardant chemicals, (decaBDE, phenol, isopropylated, phosphate (3:1) (PIP) and hexachlorobutadiene (HBCD)), were listed as PBTs, and were subjected to expedited action.

The proposed rules for these substances were issued in June, 2019, and were finalized in January, 2021, with an effective date of February 5, 2021. Public comments were accepted through May 17, 2021. On June 11, EPA announced that it will set new compliance deadlines for at least some of its five TSCA rules for PBT chemicals in September, 2021 (Inside EPA).

Timeline of Events:

  • June 22, 2016 – EPA Identified five PBT chemicals for expedited action, three of which are flame retardant chemicals (DecaBDE, PIP, HCBD) (EPA PBT)
  • September 19, 2016 – Date by which manufacturers had to inform EPA of request to perform full risk evaluation (Rizzuto 2016).
  • June 22, 2019 – Issued proposed rule for PBT chemicals (EPA PBT)
  • January 6, 2021 – Five final rules for PBT chemicals issued under TSCA by EPA (EPA PBT)
  • February 5, 2021 – Effective date for the five PBT chemicals
    • March 21, 2021 – EPA announces 60 day public comment period on five PBT chemicals (EPA PBT). EPA issues temporary 180 day “No Action Assurance” for PIP (EPA PBT)
  • May 17, 2021 – End date for acceptance of public comments on docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0202 (EPA Public Comment Period)
  • September, 2021 – EPA to release revised compliance deadlines

The final rules banned most uses of these five PBTs, as described below.


DecaBDE is a brominated flame retardant that is added to components of consumer products such as plastics, textiles, adhesives, and polyurethane foam (e.g., electronic equipment and building materials). DecaBDE has also been reported in children’s products, such as toys, clothing, and craft materials (86 FR 880).

The final rule, 40 CFR Part 751, “prohibits all manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce” of DecaBDE with some exceptions, including for products made of recycled plastic containing decaBDE (EPA 40 CFR Part 751). 

Phenol, isopropylated, phosphate (3:1), or PIP

Phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1), or PIP, refers to three chemicals: Tris (3-isopropylphenyl) phosphate, Tri (isopropylphenyl) phosphate, and Tri (4-isopropylphenyl phosphate (EPA PIP Use info: p. 2). PIP is used as a flame retardant in textiles, rubber, polyurethane foam, plasticizers, and adhesives (EPA PIP Use info: p. 6, 9). Consumer products in which PIP might be used include electronics and electrical devices (e.g., TVs, computers, phones), building and construction materials (e.g.,  paints, coatings, roofing, insulation materials), and home and office furnishings, as well as applications in public transportation and automobiles (e.g., foam upholstery, curtains, carpets, and fabrics) (EPA – PIP Use Info: p. 9).  

With respect to PIP, the final rule prohibits processing and distribution (with exclusions) and prohibits release “to water during manufacturing, processing, and distribution” (EPA 40 CFR Part 751). 

Numerous industries and products are affected by the restrictions imposed by EPA on PIP use (e.g., plastics material and resin, communications equipment, and automobiles and motor vehicle parts) (EPA 40 CFR Part 751).

Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)

HCBD is a brominated flame retardant commonly used in expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) and extruded polystyrene foam (XPS) used as a rigid foam insulation in buildings, as well as in textiles and housings for electronics (EPA, 2020).

The final rule for HCBD under TSCA prohibits all manufacturing, importing, processing, and distributing of HCBD and products containing HCBD, except for HCBD created as an unintentional byproduct during  chlorinated solvent production, and the processing and distributing of the byproduct for burning as a waste fuel (EPA 40 CFR 751, 86 FR 922). This rule potentially affects a wide variety of industries and products (e.g., petroleum lubricating oil and grease, plastics, resin, cement, and rubber products manufacture).

Takeaways for Stakeholders

Manufacturers and downstream users from affected industries will need to reevaluate their manufacturing processes and supply chain to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Further, companies should carefully evaluate substitutes for efficacy and potential toxicity.

Cardno ChemRisk scientists have extensive professional experience evaluating the possible hazards and risks posed by chemicals in occupational settings, and particularly in regards to TSCA Test Order requirements. Please contact Dr. Marisa Kreider and Ms. Heather Lynch for more information on our capabilities regarding TSCA.