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US EPA: Clariant Exolit® OP 560 flame retardant superior for furniture upholstery

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) designates Exolit® OP 560 Flame Retardant more environmentally friendly than traditional flame retardant for polyurethane foams
  • Flame retardant applicable to upholstered furniture and home construction materials
  • US EPA report on Clariant product is part of its Design for the Environment Program with US industry
Charlotte, October 22, 2014 – Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, has announced that its Exolit OP® 560 Flame Retardant has been designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) as a safer, more environmentally friendly flame retardant for polyurethane (PUR) foam used in furniture upholstery and other consumer products than the traditional formulation, pentabromo diphenylether (pentaBDE).

In addition, the Clariant product meets internationally accepted flammability standards for flexible PUR, said Adrian Beard, Head of Marketing and Advocacy for the Flame Retardants Business Line of the Business Unit Additives.

In a draft Alternatives Assessment report on flame retardants in flexible foam released in June 2014, the US EPA identified the proprietary Clariant formulation, oligomeric phosphonate polyol (OPP), as a safer alternative to materials traditionally used for fire protection of foam. The main applications are flexible polyurethane foams for upholstered furniture and seating in residential, commercial, and transport segments.

The report is part of the EPA’s Design for the Environment program, which helps industries choose safer chemicals, and offers a basis for future decision-making by providing a detailed comparison of the potential public health and environmental impacts of chemical alternatives.

Clariant plans to expand capacity to meet increasing demand in the move toward more environmentally friendly and sustainable PUR foams.

Exolit OP 560 is a reactive flame retardant that eliminates unwanted emissions since it becomes chemically bonded within the polymeric polyurethane foam structure. As a result, the Exolit OP 560 does not leave foam residue during use. Exolit OP is also halogen-free, and has a more favorable toxicological and environmental profile. In particular, it cannot bioaccumulate in humans and other organisms since it is embedded into the foam.

Additional benefits include ageing stability. Further benefits for PUR applications include excellent ageing stability, as well as low smoke density and smoke gas corrosivity in case of fire. The phosphonate’s high effectiveness and good compatibility with natural polymers allow it to be used at low dosages in the foam matrix, which also adds to the foam’s excellent sustainability profile.

Natural Foams Technology (formerly Green Urethanes Ltd), the provider of green solutions to the global PU industry, has confirmed that manufacturers can use Exolit OP 560 with its natural oil polyol (NOP) foams to develop low-emission flexible foams that meet internationally accepted flammability standards such as Cal TB 117-1975, California’s open flame flammability test for upholstered furniture, and the updated Cal TB 117-2013, which comes into force in January 2015. With high bio-renewable content, the foams have become the first to be accepted into the USDA’s BioPreferred program, a U.S. federal program to encourage industry to switch to more sustainable materials.

NCFI Polyurethanes, a North Carolina-based manufacturer, has been using the NOP technology in their BioLuxMax line for several years. After running extensive trials with Exolit OP 560, they plan to introduce a commercial product in the fourth quarter 2014.

Additional testing by Clariant and Natural Foams reinforces the EPA’s replacement assessment of Exolit material. Results from these and other independent tests show good flame retardant performance as well as substantial smoke reduction from these foams. A recent study by Dr. Heather Stapleton at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment, Durham, North Carolina, also concluded that Exolit OP 560 is not released from the polyurethane foam.

"Exolit OP 560 is not only halogen-free but becomes an integral part of the PUR foam, creating possibilities to produce flexible foams with locked-in fire protection without the environmental and health concerns of traditional flame retardants," comments Adrian Beard, Head of Marketing, Flame Retardants, Clariant. "The US EPA report is a step forward in easing the identification of safer alternatives by PRU foam producers and end-users."

The company demonstrated Exolit OP 560 Flame Retardant at the Composites & Advanced Materials Expo – CAMX 2014 at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida, this month.

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