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Halogen-free is a phrase that many of us recognise. It is often used in connection with cable products, and is generally understood to be a good thing. But why is being free of halogens a good thing, and what are halogens in the first place?

Halogen is the name used to describe a group of elements on the periodic table that exhibit similar properties. These elements are:

  • Fluorine
  • Chlorine
  • Bromine
  • Iodine
  • Astatine

Halogens are particularly useful elements in a wide variety of applications, from disinfectants to lighting. They are even essential for good health - with the exception of Astatine, the human body contains small amounts of all of the halogens.

For the purposes of this article, their most useful application is a constituent compound used in electrical cables. One of the most popular cabling materials in use today is PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). It is cheap, easy to use and very versatile, which has led it to be adopted across a huge range of industries from communications and retail to aerospace and medical. As the name suggests, chlorine is extensively used in the manufacture of PVC. In another example, a derivative of Fluorine (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene - FEP) provides high temperature resistance, making it ideal for the insulation of certain cables.

However useful they may be as chemical buiding blocks, there are some pretty major drawbacks. The are all very reactive, creating nasty corrosive compounds when combined with other elements. In addition, they are pretty toxic themselves - Fluorine and Chlorine in particular. When breathed as a gas, these can be deadly.

Our particular concern is that when halognated plastics burn, they can release these nasty gases into the atmosphere. When combined with restricted environments - whether the interior of a ship of the tunnel of a metro - the concentration of these lethal gases can build very quickly, making escape in the case of a fire even more hazardous. Unfortunately, history has proven this to be the case. With this in mind, the rise of Halogen-free materials and their use in electrical cables can easily be understood.

RS Components is providing its customers the chance to make the change to halogen-free products. The latest range of computer power cordsets from RS Pro are now available in halogen-free materials, and are colour coded.

Connector Geek is Dave in real life. After three decades in the industry, Dave still likes talking about connectors almost as much as being a Dad to his two kids. He still loves Lego too. And guitars.
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