Shortage of flame retardant TCPP triggers turmoil for Europe prices

Author: Vicky Ellis

2021/10/14

LONDON (ICIS)--A shortage of flame retardants commonly used in mattresses, such as TCPP, has led to surging prices in Europe, according to market players in the polyurethane (PU) foam industry.

Prices for TCPP, or Tris (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate, were heard in a range as wide as €2,300-4,500/tonne on a delivered basis in October, with a focus around the €3,000-4,000/tonne level.

Other flame retardants used in PU foam are also tight, which is affecting prices. One distributor notes that prices for TDCP (tris [2-chloro-1-(chloromethyl)ethyl]phosphate) can reach €3,000/tonne on a delivered basis.

Higher prices are the result of low imports from major producer China, which has cut back production due to government rules about factory emissions.

Tight supply is a concern for foam producers, especially those producing for the UK, where national fire safety regulations have supported the use of flame retardants in mattresses and upholstered furniture.

Flame retardants are used in formulations for PU foam along with polyols and isocyanates, with TCPP making up 10-20% of a foam formulation. Typically TCPP is 14% of a formulation for rigid foam, according to a major foam producer. It also used for its viscosity properties.

PU with flame retardants are used to make mattresses and soft furnishings.

The shortage of flame retardant additives is not restricted to PU. The expandable polystyrene (EPS) market is also struggling with the issue, with flame retardant additives used in some grades of EPS foam insulation hard to find.

Frong page picture: Discarded mattresses to be recycled at a plant in the Netherlands
Source: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock

Additional reporting by Stephanie Wix and Fergus Jensen

(Clarification: recasts headline and introductory paragraph)