Fired Up

Lost in all the hubbub over whether TBBPA and its cousins pose an realistic* environmental threat is the basic consideration of why those flame retardant chemicals are used in the first place: to help save lives.

May is National Electrical Safety Month in the US (we may not build much anymore, but we lead the world in calendar promotions), and a chemical supplier named Earthwise has published a pseudo public service announcement reminding that deaths from fires and burns are third leading cause of fatal home injuries in the US.

I won’t deny Earthwise’s agenda here, but let’s keep in mind that while TBBPA may cause harm to humans under certain extraordinary circumstances, it’s nothing compared to the life and property threat a burning electronics device could pose.

*While the literature suggests direct contact with or inhalation of TBBPA can have harmful effects, in practice, this would be rare.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

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