A trend towards using plastic parts in electrical and electronic goods is causing a headache for the recycling industry

Flame retardants used in plastics in a wide range of electronic products is putting the health of children exposed to them at risk, according to a new report (PDF).

Brominated flame-retarding chemicals have been associated with lower mental, psychomotor and IQ development, poorer attention spans and decreases in memory and processing speed, according to the peer-reviewed study by the campaign group CHEM Trust.

“The brain development of future generations is at stake,” says Dr Michael Warhurst, CHEM Trust’s director. “We need EU regulators to phase out groups of chemicals of concern, rather than slowly restricting one chemical at a time. We cannot continue to gamble with our children’s health.”

The issue poses questions about recycled products that have been imported from countries with less robust recycling rules, such as China.

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A 2015 study found traces of two potentially hormone-altering flame retardants in 43% of toys surveyed.

In 2014 China generated 3.2bn tonnes of industrial solid waste, of which 2bn tonnes was recycled, recovered, incinerated or reused, according to a study in Nature. But concerns about its waste treatment standards were heightened by the discovery of some of the highest concentrations of PBDE chemicals (a group of brominated flame retardants) ever recorded in the food chain near the country’s e-waste recycling plants in the same year.

A trend towards using plastic parts instead of metals in electrical and electronic goods is also causing a headache for the circular economy because so many plastics use toxic flame retardants.

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One 2015 study found significant traces of two potentially hormone-altering brominated flame retardants in 43% of 21 children’s toys surveyed, including toy robots, hockey sticks and finger skateboards. The substances are often found in the recycled plastics first used in electronic products.

Last month the European commission moved to restrict the use of one such substance, DecaBDE, but also allowed exemptions for spare car parts and aviation, and longer deferral periods for recycled materials containing the substance.

Source: The Guardian

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