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Reducing your exposure to PBDEs in your home

Reducing your exposure to PBDEs in your home

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

View and Download the report here: PBDE Guide

PBDEs and other toxic chemicals are widely used to prevent the spread of fire and are likely to be found in dozens of products in your home, from the padding below your carpet, to your bed, couch or television screen. They are most commonly found in polyurethane foam products and electronics.



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(furniture, mattresses and foam items for infants and kids)

The form of PBDEs used in foam furniture was withdrawn from the US market in 2005 after EWG and others reported widespread PBDE contamination in people, households, wildlife and common foods. See EWG's work on PBDEs for more information.

New foam items do not likely contain PBDEs. However, mattresses, mattress pads, couches, easy chairs, foam pillows (including breastfeeding pillows), carpet padding, and other foam items purchased before 2005 are likely to contain them. PBDEs were also used in vehicle seating, car seats, and office furniture. We urge you to take these simple steps to avoid contact with PBDE-containing items still in your homes, offices and vehicles.

1. Inspect foam items. Replace anything with a ripped cover or foam that is misshapen and breaking down. If you cannot replace these items try to keep the covers intact. Beware of older items like car seats and mattress pads where the foam is not completely encased in a protective fabric.

2. Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. These vaccuums are more efficient at trapping small particles and will likely remove more contaminants and other allergens from your home. HEPA-filter air cleaners may also reduce particle-bound contaminants in your house.

3. Do not reupholster foam furniture. Even those items without PBDEs might contain poorly studied fire retardants with potentially harmful effects.

4. Be careful when removing old carpet. The padding may contain PBDEs. Keep your work area isolated from the rest of your home. Clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and mop to pick up as many of the small particles as possible.

5. When purchasing new products ask the manufacturers what type of fire retardants they use. Avoid products with brominated fire retardants, and opt for less flammable fabrics and materials, like leather, wool and cotton. Be aware that "natural" or latex foam and natural cotton are flammable and require a fire retardant method that may contain toxic fire retardants.




The form of PBDEs known as Deca is used in computer and television monitors — as well as other electronic products. Deca is not subject to any use restrictions, despite the fact that is has been detected at higher concentrations in children, and is toxic to animals. It has been shown to break down in to more toxic forms once it enters the environment.

In response to restrictions on toxic chemical in electronic products sold in Europe, and several U.S. states major manufacturers have taken the initiative to remove PBDEs from their electronic products world-wide. We have identified a number of major manufacturers who have pledged to eliminate PBDEs.

When purchasing new products look for these brands, which have publicly committed to phasing out all brominated fire retardants: Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba

Panasonic has agreed to eliminate all bromine-containing fire retardants from mobile phones and computers by 2011, but does not give a commitment or timeline for the remainder of their products. Dell has incomplete restrictions. Motorola's phase-out of BFRs is limited to their ECOMOTO phone line.

The following companies have or are phasing out Deca, but may use other bromine-based fire retardants in their products: Canon, Daikin, Intel, IBM, HP (Hewlett Packard), Minolta, Mitsubishi, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Xerox. Scan your house for Deca-containing items. The chemical can be found in:

  • Electronics TV components, mobile phones, fax machines, remote controls, video equipment, printers, photocopiers, toner cartridges, scanners.
  • Transportation electronic components, automobile fabrics, plastics and electronics.
  • Household items kitchen appliances, fans, heaters or hair dryers, curtains and drapes, water heaters, and lamp sockets.
View and Download the report here: PBDE Guide