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Product design to reduce restricted substances : The experience of brominated flame retardants in vehicle design

Hall, Jennifer (2001)
Abstract
Firms proactive in environmental work and those pressured by their product chain have a list of restricted substances that they do not want their products to contain. But as environmental management issues progress, what are companies doing to reduce the use of these restricted substances? Brominated flame retardants used in cars, trucks and buses to improve fire safety are a rising public concern and have been a scientific focus for some time regarding their negative health and environmental impacts. Controls on brominated flame retardant chemicals and on products that contain them are currently profiled in the European Union Parliament, and in several member states. In response, the vehicle sector has generally included the targeted... (More)
Firms proactive in environmental work and those pressured by their product chain have a list of restricted substances that they do not want their products to contain. But as environmental management issues progress, what are companies doing to reduce the use of these restricted substances? Brominated flame retardants used in cars, trucks and buses to improve fire safety are a rising public concern and have been a scientific focus for some time regarding their negative health and environmental impacts. Controls on brominated flame retardant chemicals and on products that contain them are currently profiled in the European Union Parliament, and in several member states. In response, the vehicle sector has generally included the targeted flame retardants on their restricted substances lists. Further, organisations are recognising the need for mechanisms in vehicle design and development that will reduce restricted substance use, integrate this issue into product design decision-making and handle the inherent trade-offs. It is the aim of this research to reveal the factors that influence a company to address restricted substance use in vehicle design, presenting this information in a way useful to companies and authorities acting to reduce restricted substances in products. The specific case of brominated flame retardants in vehicles is examined. To fulfil the aim, a series of interviews are conducted with vehicle producers, supply chain actors and concerned external actors. Interviews investigate the vehicle design chain to reveal what mechanisms are built into the design process to reduce restricted substances and to identify main factors influencing this. A framework for the findings is developed from mechanisms and influencing factors identified in existing studies and literature. Overall, this research concludes that the restricted brominated flame retardants are not yet out of vehicles. In part, this is because the industry is not able to apply suitable alternative solutions for all applications in vehicles and components. Also, it is partly because vehicle producers and suppliers of components, such as electronics and textiles, do not know all cases where brominated flame retardants are used. Likewise, they do not know which flame retardants are used in many cases. The situation is similarly unclear for many other restricted substances. More information is becoming available and more substance restrictions are expected. The work that the industry still has to do should account for this and should ultimately focus on reducing the number of substances in use.



As anticipated, research findings show that support for broad Design-for-environment (DfE) and a life cycle approach in a company are an essential foundation for efforts. Restricted substance lists are the main mechanism developed to address the use of brominated flame retardants and other restricted substances. While lists have brought profile to the issue, they alone are not enough to integrate restricted substance considerations into vehicle design decisions and thus, may not adequately address the issue. Bringing these lists into early decision-making in vehicle design, lists lead to substitution of one substance with another. The mindset associated with substitution is to include restricted substance considerations in vehicle design only when there is no disruption to the existing design process and minimal change to the vehicle. However, the problem with restricted substance use is not confined to a fixed number of chemicals with a negative impact. The problem is the use of a large number of poorly understood substances. Thus, substitution of one substance with another may not actually constitute a solution.



In light of existing and coming product-focused policies and substance oriented regulations, restricted substance lists should not confine efforts to incremental change, but act as mechanisms for solving real problems around the use of potentially harmful substances and materials. Changing the current mindset to actually integrate restricted substance considerations into vehicle design decisions increases possibilities to reduce the use of these substances. Integration can also lead to changes in the design process and the product that bring performance and business improvements. Examples from the research illustrate the potential for this improvement. The vehicle design process is geared to respond to continual time and cost pressures. Therefore, it is key to recognise that integration into this process may still not adequately address restricted substance use.



Based on these conclusions, suggestions include a step-back approach when faced with a restricted substance in adesign. Before looking for an alternative substance, there are benefits to first consider the necessity for the substance and its intended function. Further suggestions include requiring suppliers to work with restricted substances in a similar way in their product design. There are constraints to such an approach. As anticipated, these include behaviour of actors and a lack of incentives along the vehicle design chain. Among specific constraints to reducing the use of brominated flame retardants is the current method for testing materials for fire safety in the vehicle industry. The research analyses a range of opinions on the test method and reveals opportunity to overcome such constraints. (Less)
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Flame retardants, Product design, Automobile industry, Hazardous substance
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[Publisher information missing]
ISSN
1650-1675
language
English
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no
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04725ab9-5671-4419-a4b2-4bfd454e6c43 (old id 526351)
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http://www.iiiee.lu.se/Publication.nsf/$webAll/C455D7F4D27FA27CC1256BE9003E9BB0/$FILE/Jennife-Hall.pdf
date added to LUP
2007-09-07 08:18:01
date last changed
2016-06-29 09:04:45
@techreport{04725ab9-5671-4419-a4b2-4bfd454e6c43,
  abstract     = {Firms proactive in environmental work and those pressured by their product chain have a list of restricted substances that they do not want their products to contain. But as environmental management issues progress, what are companies doing to reduce the use of these restricted substances? Brominated flame retardants used in cars, trucks and buses to improve fire safety are a rising public concern and have been a scientific focus for some time regarding their negative health and environmental impacts. Controls on brominated flame retardant chemicals and on products that contain them are currently profiled in the European Union Parliament, and in several member states. In response, the vehicle sector has generally included the targeted flame retardants on their restricted substances lists. Further, organisations are recognising the need for mechanisms in vehicle design and development that will reduce restricted substance use, integrate this issue into product design decision-making and handle the inherent trade-offs. It is the aim of this research to reveal the factors that influence a company to address restricted substance use in vehicle design, presenting this information in a way useful to companies and authorities acting to reduce restricted substances in products. The specific case of brominated flame retardants in vehicles is examined. To fulfil the aim, a series of interviews are conducted with vehicle producers, supply chain actors and concerned external actors. Interviews investigate the vehicle design chain to reveal what mechanisms are built into the design process to reduce restricted substances and to identify main factors influencing this. A framework for the findings is developed from mechanisms and influencing factors identified in existing studies and literature. Overall, this research concludes that the restricted brominated flame retardants are not yet out of vehicles. In part, this is because the industry is not able to apply suitable alternative solutions for all applications in vehicles and components. Also, it is partly because vehicle producers and suppliers of components, such as electronics and textiles, do not know all cases where brominated flame retardants are used. Likewise, they do not know which flame retardants are used in many cases. The situation is similarly unclear for many other restricted substances. More information is becoming available and more substance restrictions are expected. The work that the industry still has to do should account for this and should ultimately focus on reducing the number of substances in use. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
As anticipated, research findings show that support for broad Design-for-environment (DfE) and a life cycle approach in a company are an essential foundation for efforts. Restricted substance lists are the main mechanism developed to address the use of brominated flame retardants and other restricted substances. While lists have brought profile to the issue, they alone are not enough to integrate restricted substance considerations into vehicle design decisions and thus, may not adequately address the issue. Bringing these lists into early decision-making in vehicle design, lists lead to substitution of one substance with another. The mindset associated with substitution is to include restricted substance considerations in vehicle design only when there is no disruption to the existing design process and minimal change to the vehicle. However, the problem with restricted substance use is not confined to a fixed number of chemicals with a negative impact. The problem is the use of a large number of poorly understood substances. Thus, substitution of one substance with another may not actually constitute a solution. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
In light of existing and coming product-focused policies and substance oriented regulations, restricted substance lists should not confine efforts to incremental change, but act as mechanisms for solving real problems around the use of potentially harmful substances and materials. Changing the current mindset to actually integrate restricted substance considerations into vehicle design decisions increases possibilities to reduce the use of these substances. Integration can also lead to changes in the design process and the product that bring performance and business improvements. Examples from the research illustrate the potential for this improvement. The vehicle design process is geared to respond to continual time and cost pressures. Therefore, it is key to recognise that integration into this process may still not adequately address restricted substance use. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
Based on these conclusions, suggestions include a step-back approach when faced with a restricted substance in adesign. Before looking for an alternative substance, there are benefits to first consider the necessity for the substance and its intended function. Further suggestions include requiring suppliers to work with restricted substances in a similar way in their product design. There are constraints to such an approach. As anticipated, these include behaviour of actors and a lack of incentives along the vehicle design chain. Among specific constraints to reducing the use of brominated flame retardants is the current method for testing materials for fire safety in the vehicle industry. The research analyses a range of opinions on the test method and reveals opportunity to overcome such constraints.},
  author       = {Hall, Jennifer},
  institution  = {[Publisher information missing]},
  issn         = {1650-1675},
  keyword      = {Flame retardants,Product design,Automobile industry,Hazardous substance},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Product design to reduce restricted substances : The experience of brominated flame retardants in vehicle design},
  year         = {2001},
}