Despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own rules to restrict known toxic chemicals*, on March 8, 2021 the EPA eased its chemical ban on known toxic fire retardant chemicals (PBTs/PBDEs), causing a win for corporations that use them in their products, including the electronics industry and companies producing home appliances, school laptops, and many other products for the home. With this move the EPA offered corporations that make products containing the toxic chemicals a temporary reprieve, saying it would delay enforcement for another 180 days of a prohibition that was set to kick in. The prohibition would have barred most shipments of products made with the flame retardant that would have been largely banned starting March 9, 2021.
The EPA says it eased the chemical ban because of the potential for significant disruption in supply chains to corporations.
*The five rules the EPA issued in January restrict chemicals with three characteristics that make them particularly hazardous: (1) they persist in the environment, (2) they build up in the food chain, and (3) they are toxic. Such chemicals include PBTs/PBDEs (fire retardant chemicals). Congress required the agency to quickly regulate them when it overhauled the Toxic Substances Control Act—the nation’s primary chemicals law—back in 2016.