BFR What?

by Renee

May 14, 2007

So Apple has agreed to eliminate BFRs and PVC from their products by 2008, a whole year ahead of HP and Dell. I’m sure now that your excitement over the fact that your next mac is going to be less toxic has subsided, you might be asking yourself  . . .what does that mean? What are BFRs and PVC? Why does Greenpeace care about this? And lastly, really, aren’t there bigger things to care and read about than ridiculously spelled words I can’t pronounce?

I’m going to try to explain all this stuff in a way that not only makes sense but doesn’t make your eyes glaze over like when I took chemistry in high school. God, I hated that class. I always got those stupid rings around my eyes from the goggles. Now that I only get those tiny little moon shaped rings where my eyeglasses fit oddly around my nose, I kind of find this stuff interesting. I also love Lyle Lovett. I’m just saying.

BFRs- Brominated Flame Retardants explained in its most simple form: are applied to prevent electronics, clothes, and furniture from catching fire. Intention is good but the practice is dirty and bad for your health. They are considered persistant organic pollutants (POPs) and are known to bioaccumulate.

POPs- Persistant Organic Pollutants are known to be a controversial discussion in itself, but for our purposes here, are known to travel vast distances from their original source. Polar Bears anyone? Yes, seriously, I’m not kidding you, there have been traces of this nasty stuff in those giant-soon-to-be-if-we-don’t-do-something-about-it-extinct animals.

Now you’re asking why. POPs bioaccumulate (you know, consistently build up) in fatty tissue and then there is the whole food chain thing. Big animal eats smaller animal. Even being exposed to really small amounts of BFRs over and over again is really bad. It just sit there in your fatty tissue bioaccummulating.

So that sucks. But really what does that mean to us? I have one more ridiculously long chemical name for you — polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs). Yup, just one of the most used BFRs there is and just happens to be one of the most toxic.   

PBDEs- A type of BFR, Brominated Flame Retardant, are known to impair attention, learning, memory, behavior, and disrupt hormone and reproductive systems (breast milk). In short, these toxins are not only about our bodies and our best friend’s bodies, they are about our children’s bodies, our nieces and nephews bodies, and our best friend’s children’s bodies.

These things are so bad that several states have recommended phase out plans to force the elimination of them from products. The European Union announced a complete prohibition of PBDEs from all electronics products. 

I’m not interested in boring anyone here and there sure is enough bad news out there, so I’m going to stop right now. All this stuff just lightly touches on why cleaning up our electronics industry is important, even in the big ol’ scheme of things (global warming). 

If you are interested in reading more about BFRs, check these out.

Health Care Without Harm 

Clean Production Action  

Natural Resources Defense Council  

 Greenpeace International


By Renee

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