03 May FRETWORK Newsletter No. 31
NEWSLETTER No. 31 – 3rd May 2017
In this issue:
One Man’s sofa is another man’s poison?
The FFR Review
The FRETWORK Code of Good Practice
One Man’s sofa is another man’s poison?
Many people involved in the upholstery supply chain were deeply upset and perplexed by the newspaper coverage that started with the Sunday Times of 9th April 2017 under the headline “Toxic fire resistant sofas linked to surge in thyroid cancer”. This is not the first time we have seen such headlines. They are extremely difficult to counter and presenting an accurate and re-assuring response is not a simple matter. The article was also linked to a Symposium taking place in York this month.
I have written several documents giving background information and briefing help for different people before I decided to write a fuller explanation of what I believe were the facts behind the article. I have also discussed the issue with some of my contacts in the Industry and finally decided that I will only write what you will see here. I have seen various statements issued by companies affected by the story and I fully support their attempts to defend their business in an ethical and proper way.
I have a clear view of the facts that I believe can be supported by reference and evidence. There are also a growing collection of articles that fit into the same area of argument demonstrating the scientific community’s concern at the number of issues raised in this way and the type of reporting that follows. I will always be pleased to discuss the issue with anyone in the industry who has concerns. Perhaps a presentation explaining my views at the next Forum would be in order?
Parts of this whole argument have been threaded through the BEIS Review Process and that is regrettable in my view but it seems to have become part of the modern life we lead and we must try to find a way to deal with it.
The FFR Review
If the change of Government caused by the Brexit vote has disrupted the review process then the calling of a General Election has made sure that nothing will happen before at least the Autumn and probably beyond.
In the meantime I am reassured on hearing that it has been made clear to BEIS that there are serious shortcomings in the new test proposals and some reconsideration would be a sensible idea. Let us hope that the present breathing space allows common sense to prevail in more of the contentious areas and we can take an opportunity to address problems in the existing test methods that were sadly overlooked in the recent proposals. We must try to ensure that whatever we have in the future will be able to demonstrate more consistency in the results produced.
The FRETWORK Code of Good Practice (FCOGP)
Many aspects of actual working practice have been discussed by our working group and it should be no surprise that we all understand that reducing the amount of chemicals used is an important topic. But it was surprising as our discussions progressed to recognise that textile processors see every day shortcomings in the present testing procedures that have a profound effect on the actual amount of chemical applied. It is to be hoped that the new team at BEIS are able to take these ideas on as part of the push to reduce chemical usage.
I think some explanation is necessary here. We have discussed the idea that some may think that using too little chemical saves costs at the expense of compliance. The Fake Britain Tv programme highlighted the practice. It was to counter this approach that the FCOGP was written. When we came to discussing using shorter flame application times in testing as a route to reducing chemical application levels – whilst maintaining safety levels we should add – it became clear that actually using longer flame application times is used in practice as a way to try and ensure a safety margin in testing to meet a “no failure” demand from customers. It is a fact of life that there is no room for a +/- approach in obtaining a certificate confirming compliance. A textile either complies or should not be used. It is obvious that this is also a way to require higher levels of chemical usage. Other methods are used to try to provide certainty in testing and basically to counter a certain lack of reproducibility from test results. This was ignored in the original versions of the Review.
We would never accept that following our FCOGP approach could compromise safety, rather it is a route to ensuring that compliance and performance is part of the process. It does however offer a route to ensuring that excess of chemical or overtreatment is also not an option.
It has always been my personal view that the new test proposals would have actually increased the variability in results and as such offered the basis for an increase in the amount of chemical used – but let’s not argue about that here.
This is probably the worst Newsletter I have ever written, mainly due my reluctance to enter into argument or debate as we try to call it. I have some news about the POP listing for DecaBDE (or as academics call it: BDE-209) that I do not understand and, as no one has offered an interpretation of the effects, any clue as to what it will mean but I think (hope?) I am correct it saying it will not be as suggested when we have to consider future use, recycling and waste issues with regard to DecaBDE.
OR, the final decision as expected has not yet been taken and there will be more to consider any time soon.
I suggest you remain alert to the possibilities and please let me know if you hear anything.
It’s a funny old World?
FRETWORK – the Flame Retardant Textiles Network.
3rd May 2017