The catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in London has shown how important fire protection is. “Flame retardants can delay the development of a fire,” explains Oliver Kutsch, CEO of the market research institute Ceresana: “They provide the fire department and those affected with crucial minutes and seconds for the rescue. Flame retardants act chemically and physically by interrupting the incineration process in different phases.” Ceresana analyzed the world market for flame retardants for the fifth time already: for brominated and chlorinated types, as well as ATH, organophosphorus, ATO, and other types. According to the present study, about 2.21 million tonnes of flame retardants per year are currently used worldwide in plastic products, electronic devices, construction material, and textiles.
Use of Flame Retardants - Often Indispensable
The construction industry was the most important sales market for flame retardants: About 30% of global demand originate in this segment. Flame retardants are especially needed in insulating foams made of expandable polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PUR). Flame retardants are also used in numerous construction materials made of rubber, in adhesives as well as in paints and varnishes. In the electronics industry, they are used for single components such as circuit boards, computer casings, as well as household and telecommunication devices. They are utilized in engineering plastics such as ABS, polyamide, epoxy, and polycarbonate. Other application areas for flame retardants are wires, cables, and products for the automotive industry. Until 2024, researchers at Ceresana expect demand for flame retardants in the segment transportation to experience the strongest percentage growth. However, construction materials will continue to be the largest application area in the upcoming eight years.
One Flame Retardant, Many Applications
Aluminum trihydroxide (ATH) was by far the best-selling flame retardant in recent years. ATH is used in the pharmaceutical industry, as a chemical intermediate, as a filler in plastics, rubber, cosmetics, and paper, as a glass additive, and in ceramics. Additionally, ATH is used as a non-smoke emitting, low toxicity, halogen-free flame retardant used for plastics, paints, adhesives, sealants, and rubber. Demand for the flame retardant ATH in Europe and the Americas amounts to over 45%. Brominated compounds, used in electronic and electrical products as well as foams, are in second place. Brominated flame retardants are very effective but also controversial. Due to legal provisions, there are significant regional differences: In Western Europe and North America, brominated compounds had market shares of only 6.4% and 12%, respectively, while accounting for 28% in Asia.