IEC Spec on Electronics Safety Tossed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Tuesday, 06 May 2008 11:41
BRUSSELS – A proposed International Electrotechnical Commission standard on electronics equipment safety has been voted down by a majority of voting countries.
 
The draft of IEC 62368, Audio/Video, Information and Communication Technology Equipment - Safety – Requirements, would have required plastic enclosures for household electronic products to withstand candle flame ignition. Critics claim the rule had no valid fire safety rationale, but enormous potential negative consequences, including the introduction of hundreds of millions of pounds of potentially toxic fire retardant chemicals into consumers' homes and bodies.
 
Eighteen of the 31 voting countries (58%) voted against the IEC draft standard, far more than the 25% needed to defeat the standard.

According to a contingent of scientists and experts who lobbied against IEC 62368, while the majority of the draft would strengthen existing standards for electronic product safety, the disputed Clause 7, which was promoted as an enhanced fire safety standard, in fact had limited potential to affect fire safety, as appliance fires represent only a small number of the total candle fires in the US each year. 
 
Appliance fires caused by candles in the US amount to 3% of total candle fires, result in no deaths, and cause $5 million worth of property damage a year, according to a 2007 report by the National Fire Protection Association.

But meeting the requirements outlined in Clause 7 would likely have forced producers to use hundreds of millions of pounds of potentially toxic fire retardant chemicals that can migrate from consumer products into dust, humans and animals, where they persist and bioaccumulate. 
 
The coalition, including Dr. Arlene Blum, a visiting chemistry scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, Friends of the Earth, Design Chain Associates, the Center for Environmental Health, the Initiative for Green Science Policy, and a other scientists, physicians and NGOs cited dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers as evidence of environmental toxicity and negative health impacts. 

The fire-retardant chemical industry, they claim, does not provide adequate information about the chemical composition or toxicology of its products, nor does it acknowledge the extensive literature of scientific publications showing environmental and health/safety problems.

"Through deceptive and incomplete data, and sheer force of will, the fire-retardant industry has, over the past several years, very nearly succeeded in making this candle flame ignition requirement a fait accompli," said Mike Kirschner of Design Chain Associates. "The electronics industry's desire is to improve environmental performance of its products and this would have driven it in the other direction for no good reason."

Two other draft IEC standards propose candle standards for consumer electronic housing. Revisions of IEC 60065 (TV and audio equipment) and IEC 60950 (IT equipment) incorporate the same clause candle flame resistance requirements. Also, the National Association of State Fire Marshals has introduced the requirement in Canadian CSA and American UL standards, which have votes scheduled for May 19.  
 

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