Posts Tagged ‘fire retardant’

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs

30 Aug

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers

Flame retardant FurniturePolybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are used as flame retardant. Like other brominated flame retardants, PBDEs have been used as ingredients in a variety of products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane foams and textiles.

They are structurally similar to PCBs which were banned in the 1970s. PBDEs are classified according to the average number of bromine atoms in the molecule. The health hazards of these chemicals have attracted increasing scrutiny, and they have been shown to reduce fertility in humans at levels found in households. Because of their toxicity and persistence, the industrial production of some PBDEs is restricted under the Stockholm Convention, a treaty to control and phase out major persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

Lower-Polybrominated diphenyl ethers

This range of chemical is called “Lower” because of the number of bromine atoms in the molecule which averages between 1 to 5 bromine atoms per molecule. These chemicals readily accumulate in the body, so are regarded as more dangerous. Lower-brominated PBDEs have been known to affect hormone levels in the thyroid gland.

Since the 1990s, environmental concerns have been raised because of high resistance Dumped Electronicsof PBDEs to degradation processes. While PBDEs do not readily biodegrade, studies have shown that PBDEs are able to transform and enter the food chain. People are exposed to low levels of PBDEs through ingestion of food and by inhalation. PBDEs bioaccumulate in blood, breast milk, and fat tissues.

Personnel associated with the manufacture of products containing PBDEs are exposed to the highest levels. Bioaccumulation is particularly concerning in such instances, especially for personnel in recycling and repair plants.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are in your home, too!

Because these chemicals are used in common household items including furnishings, plastics, electronics, polyurethane, textiles and carpet cleaners, people are also exposed to these chemicals in their domestic environment. Studies in Canada have found significant concentrations of PBDEs in common foods such as salmon, ground beef, butter, and cheese. PBDEs have also been found at high levels in indoor dust, sewage sludge and effluents from wastewater treatment plants.

Harbour SealsIncreasing PBDE levels have been detected in the blood of marine mammals such as harbour seals.



A recent study of 20 mother-child pairs in the United States, conducted by the Environmental Working Group, found that the median blood levels of PBDEs in children (62 parts per billion) were 3.2 times higher than in their mothers. Published studies express concern because exposure to PBDEs impairs development of the nervous system.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers – risks to health

PBDEs have also been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects, in particular, on oestrogen and thyroid hormones. A 2009 animal study conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrates that the disruption of the thyroid function after perinatal (5 months before birth and 1 month after) exposure to PBDEs during critical developmental time points. The adverse effects on the mechanism of thyroid hormone disruption during development have been shown to persist into adulthood. The EPA noted that PBDEs are particularly toxic to the developing brains of animals. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that even a single dose administered to mice during development of the brain can cause permanent changes in behaviour, including hyperactivity.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are being banned

Swedish scientists first reported substances related to PentaBDE were accumulating in human breast milk.

Peregrin FalconStudies by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation found for the first time, very high levels of higher-brominated PBDEs (BDE-209) in eggs of Peregrine falcons.

Two forms of PBDEs, Penta and Octa, are no longer manufactured in the United States because of health and safety concerns.

Based on a comprehensive risk assessment under the Existing Substances Regulation 793/93/EEC, the EU has completely banned the use of Penta and Octa BDE since 2004. However, both chemicals are still found in furniture and foam items made before the phase-out was completed.

As of June 1, 2006 the State of California began prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, and processing of flame-retardant products containing pentabrominated diphenyl ether (pentaBDE) and octabrominated diphenyl (octaBDE).

The most common PBDEs that are used in electronics are in a form known as Deca. Deca is banned in Europe for this use and in some U.S. states. For PBDE, EPA has set reference dose of 7 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, which is “believed to be without appreciable effects”. However, Linda Birnbaum, PhD, a senior toxicologist with the EPA, notes concern: “What I see is another piece of evidence that supports the fact that levels of these chemicals in children appear to be higher than the levels in their parents; I think this study raises a red flag”.

Previous study by EWG in 2003, published test results showing that the average level of fire-retardants in breast milk from 20 American mothers was 75 times higher than the average levels measured in Europe.

Mind DisruptedA 2010 study found that children with higher concentrations of PBDE congeners 47, 99 and 100 in their umbilical cord blood at birth, scored lower on tests of mental and physical development between the ages of one and six. Developmental effects were particularly evident at four years of age, when verbal and full IQ scores were reduced by 5.5 to 8.0 points for those with the highest prenatal exposures.

PBDEs are ubiquitous in the environment, and, according to the EPA, exposure may pose health risks. According to U.S. EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, evidence indicates that PBDEs may possess liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity. In June 2008, the U.S. EPA set a safe daily exposure level ranging from 0.1 to 7 ug (micro-grams) per kg body weight per day for 4 most common PBDEs. In April 2007, the legislature of the State of Washington passed a bill banning the use of PBDEs. The State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection found that all PBDEs should be banned. In August, 2003, the State of California outlawed the sale of penta- and octa- PBDE and products containing them, effective January 1, 2008. In May 2007, the legislature of the State of Maine passed a bill phasing out the use of DecaBDE.

The European Union decided to ban the use of two A Burning Issueclasses of flame retardants, in particular, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) in electric and electronic devices. This ban was formalised in the RoHS Directive, and an upper limit of 1 g/kg for the sum of PBBs and PBDEs was set. In February 2009, the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) released two certified reference materials (CRMs) to help analytical laboratories better detect these two classes of flame retardants. The reference materials were custom-made to contain all relevant PBDEs and PBBs at levels close to the legal limit.
At an international level, in May 2009 the Parties of the Stockholm Convention for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) took the decision to list commercial penta-BDE and commercial octa-BDE as POP substances. This listing is due to the properties of hexa-BDE (hexabromodiphenyl ether) and hepta-BDE (heptabromodiphenyl ether) which are the main components of commercial octa-BDE, and due to the properties of tetra-BDE (tetrabromodiphenyl ether) and penta-BDE (pentabromodiphenyl ether) which are the main components of commercial penta-BDE.

So you see, there are a number of health disrupting chemicals of this family surrounding you and now you need to know how to reduce the impact of these chemicals on your health.

Firstly, you need to read the labels of all the chemicals in your home, garage, shed and garden. Remove all the toxic ones. If you are unsure, remember “if in doubt, throw it out”.

Next, you need to look for non-toxic alternatives, keeping in mind that a number of non-toxic, “green” products actually do not perform at all well. (This is the reason why people tend to stick to the products they know, because they “work” and the perceived harm using them is regarded as minimal.)  This is the reason for this blog, to alert you to the fact that the harm is MORE THAN you think.

Household Cleaners

Household CleanersHowever, I can recommend alternatives that DO WORK EFFECTIVELY. Click on your country to see the range of products available:

USA and Canada | UK and Europe

Australia and New Zealand


You may also be pleased to know that there is something that can be done about the toxins in your body. All the toxins I have written about in this blog, have the potential to accumulate in your body.


Revenol This  same company produces incredible supplements that can help you with many health challenges. Revenol has been shown to escort free radicals, heavy metals and toxins from your body. You can find out more about Revenol by clicking on your country:

USA and Canada | UK and Europe



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Contents: courtesy of Wikipedia