Press release

April 26, 2007


Ecolabel confusion on heat pumps

(Brussels, April 26, 2007) - The European Environmental Bureau and the Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL) are dismayed at today’s positive vote by the Commission and Member States on confused criteria for the Ecolabel on heat pumps. Positive environmental gains on key issues such as the global warming potential of refrigerants allowed in the label, and on energy efficiency, have been undone by the decision to allow the controversial flame retardant, deca-BDE .

In draft criteria, deca-BDE was banned despite exemptions in EU legislation allowing its continued use. The Commission’s position on the exemption of deca-BDE in the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive is a subject of a court case from the European Parliament, and yet to be concluded by the European Court of Justice.  The Commission and Member States have decided to delete the criterion on flame retardants as a means of side-stepping the deca controversy, but in doing so the RoHS Directive applies and deca is therefore allowed. Despite the lack of a Court decision and the exemption of deca-BDE in EU legislation, some product manufacturers, including the following, have already banned deca-BDE from their products: Phillips (televisions), Sharp (copiers), Fujitsu Siemens, Dell and Hewlett Packard (computers).

The European Ecolabel is meant to identify products with reduced lifecycle environmental and health impacts, enabling consumers to make ecologically-informed choices. It is also meant to encourage innovation in product design and production, going beyond legislation. DG Enterprise’s pressure to allow deca-BDE to be used has undermined the role of Ecolabel and shown a continuing lack of understanding of this market tool.

Blanca Morales, EEB’s EU Ecolabel Coordinator, said: “This is the first ecolabel created for heat pumps at EU level, and it’s disappointing that DG Enterprise has sided with some elements of industry in allowing deca-BDE to be used. What’s the point of an ecolabel if it can’t go beyond legislation?  The environmental gains in global warming and energy efficiency are completely destroyed by allowing deca.”

  1. Christian Farrar-Hockley of HEAL said: “As a voluntary, market-based tool that is meant to be a mark of environmental excellence, health and consumer organisations expected deca-BDE to be banned from an ecolabel.  Deca, which has just been banned in Washington State, with other US states following, leaches from products in homes and is found in housedust and ingested, particularly by children. Recent tests on human breast milk show that deca accumulates in the food-chain and there is growing scientific evidence of its neurotoxic developmental health effects.”

For more information please contact:-

Blanca Morales, EEB EU Ecolabel Coordinator:; Tel: +32 (0)2 289 1303

Christian Farrar-Hockley, Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL):;
Tel: +32 (0)2 234 3644

DecaBDE is a flame retardant widely used in electrical equipment and for the treatment of some upholstery textiles. Around 90% of world production ends up in electronics and plastics, while the other approximately 10% ends up in coated textiles and upholstered furniture and bedding products.  DecaBDE has been detected in the blood of workers involved in recycling electrical equipment and, in blood samples taken from the general population. The main sources of exposure to decaBDE for the general population are in indoor air and dust at home or in the office.

The Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive was created in 2002, and it bans the placing on the EU market of new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than agreed levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. Deca-BDE is one of the substances controversially exempted from the Directive.

In vitro effects of brominated flame retardants and metabolites on CYP17 catalytic activity: A novel mechanism of action? Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Volume 216, Issue 2, 15 October 2006 , Pages 274-281 Rocío F. Cantón, J. Thomas Sanderson, Sandra Nijmeijer, Åke Bergman, Robert J. Letcher and Martin van den Berg

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