Why are halogens used in plastic materials? Good question! Panduit Corp., a manufacturer of cabling and wire structures, produced a White Paper in 2005 (Five Things to Know When Specifying Halogen-Free Wiring Duct), and offers some good information. Halogenated compounds can “produce properties in plastic products that can be difficult to duplicate, at the same performance and cost, in non-halogenated compounds.”
Halogen, by definition means “salt former” and components containing halogens are called “salts.” There are five chemicals that contain halogens: Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine and Astataine.
The Panduit White Paper notes a couple of examples: Fluorine derived FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) is commonly called Teflon, and we all know that Teflon provides extremely high heat resistance in cookware. Panduit notes that it is also used in the insulation of plenum rated communications cabling, which limits its combustion in a fire and provides excellent fire safety performance.
Chlorine is a compound of PVC, Panduit notes. “According to the Vinyl Institute, ‘Vinyl is the second largest selling plastic and the most versatile one. Vinyl’s low cost, versatility and performance make it the material of choice for dozens of industries such as health care, communications, aerospace, automotive,” and building and construction materials, such as the vinyl siding on homes.
“The chlorine in vinyl is derived from common salt and water, a readily available, inexpensive commodity allowing PVC to be produced at a lower cost compared to alternative materials,” said Panduit.
“The abundance of raw material components, relatively low material cost and desirable product properties are the key reasons many halogenated compounds are the materials of choice today,” the Panduit White Paper noted. “In many applications a halogenated material can provided the required product performance at a lower overall cost than halogen-free materials.