Apparently, Boeing was a bit of a sticking point in the negotiations over Washington’s recent ban of the toxic flame retardants known as PBDEs. In legislative negotions, the ariplane manufacturer won an exemption for one form of PBDE, arguing that there were no safe, effective alternatives for some aviation applications.

All things considered, that exemption may have made some sense. The PBDE ban was definitely a good idea; but it’s hard to argue that preventing airplane catastrophes is a good idea too. And it was definitely better to have a ban with a small loophole than no ban at all—which might have happened, if Boeing hadn’t gotten its exemption.

But now, wouldja look at what landed in my inbox: a press release from one of Boeing’s suppliers:

  • “In compliance with the 787 Dreamliner specifications we were able to…develop a lightweight, two-layer, high-performance PBDEs and PBBs free moisture barrier polyurethane adhesive tape…. I am pleased to state that Patco 9425FR has been rigorously tested by Boeing’s engineering laboratories to their BMS 8-346 specification and has been designated as the exclusive product on Boeing’s QPL for the next generation 787 Dreamliner aircraft.” [Emphasis added]

    Wading through the gobbledygook, here’s what this means: a mere three months after the PBDE ban was enacted, some ingenious chemical engineer developed a PBDE-free, fireproof tape that Boeing’s rigorous standards. I don’t know if that gets rid of all of the PBDEs that Boeing uses—but it’s a great start.

    So good for the engineer, and good for Boeing for using the safer, smarter product! But it does make me wonder—if 3 months is all it takes to find an effective alternative to PBDEs, how “necessary” was that loophole in the first place?