chemical information


Chemical Class:

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

Chemical SubClass

Nonabrominated diphenyl ether

Manufacturing/Use Status

use/production has been voluntarily discontinued in the U.S.

Found in these people:

Anonymous Teen 1, Baby #1, Baby #4, Baby #5, Kathy Fowler, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter, Jenna Meyer, Katrina Alcorn, Margaret Hardin, Angela Strother, Darcy White, Jennifer Scheinz, Anonymous, Susanne Green, Participant #18, Dr. Beverly Wright, Adult #108, Adult B, Vivian Chang, Jennifer Hill-Kelley, Suzie Canales, Jean Salone, Cord Blood Sample 11, Cord Blood Sample 13, Cord Blood Sample 15, Cord Blood Sample 16, Cord Blood Sample 18, Cord Blood Sample 19

Found in these locations:

Atlanta, GA; Rockville, MD; Upstate New York, NY; San Francisco, CA; Oakland, CA; Evergreen, CO; Gainesville, FL; Raytown, MO; Helena, MT; Nashville, TN; Burke, VA; VA, USA; New Orleans, LA; Green Bay, WI; Corpus Christi, TX

Exposure routes:

Fire retardant in foam furniture, carpet padding, computers, televisions. Pollutant in house dust, food.


Nona/Deca-brominated PBDEs are currently used as fire retardants in plastics for computer monitors, television sets and other electronic products.

Deca appears to have neurotoxic effects to laboratory animals exposed during early development. (Viberg H. 2006) A study exposing mice to a single low dose (2.2 mg/kg) of Deca during a during neonatal brain development caused irreversible changes in adult brain function which worsened with age. (Viberg 2003)

The other pressing health concern is the extent to which is it a source of less-brominated, and more toxic forms of PBDEs in humans and the environment. Dozens of laboratory studies show that Deca photodegrades under a range of conditions, and it even is broken down in the bodies of fish fed pure Deca in their diets. (Soderstrom G. 2004; Stapleton H.M. 2006)

Studies of laboratory animals link PBDE exposure to an array of adverse health effects including thyroid hormone disruption, permanent learning and memory impairment, behavioral changes, hearing deficits, delayed puberty onset, decreased sperm count, and fetal malformations. (Darnerud 2003; Hale R.C. 2003) Research in animals shows that exposure to brominated fire retardants in-utero or during infancy leads to more significant harm than exposure during adulthood, and at much lower levels. (Viberg H 2006)

Nona PBDEs have been detected in several studies of adult blood serum, fat tissues and breast milk. They appear to exist in higher concentrations in blood lipid than in breast milk. Very little data exists on concentrations in pregnant women and young children.


Brominated fire retardants currently used in plastics and fabric. The major use is in electronic devices; the minor use is as a backcoating on industrial fabrics. Are directly toxic to mammals and breakdown to more dangerous forms in the environment.

PBDE-206 has been found in 34 of the 138 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Top health concerns for PBDE-206 (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Reproduction and fertilityunknown
Brain and nervous systemunknown

Results for PBDE-206

PBDE-206 was measured in different units for some of the studies. Overall it was found in 34 of 138 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. The bars below are grouped by units:

in blood serum (lipid weight)

Showing results from EWG/Commonweal Study #7, consumer product chemicals in adults and teens, EWG/Commonweal Study #4, industrial chemicals and pesticides in cord blood, EWG Study #3, industrial chemicals and pesticides in adults, EWG Study #6, consumer product chemicals in mothers and daughters, EWG Study #8, chemicals in mother and 2 children, EWG Study #9, flame retardants in mothers and children, Pollution in Minority Newborns, Other Body Burden Studies, Adult Minority Leader Report, Dateline NBC Families, Dateline NBC Families, Pets Project

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum
  • found in 26 of 118 people in the group
ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum 19.9

PBDE-206 results

in breast milk (lipid weight)

Showing results from EWG Study #2, flame retardants in breast milk

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.00404 ppb (lipid weight) in breast milk
  • found in 8 of 20 people in the group
ppb (lipid weight) in breast milk 0.04

PBDE-206 results

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Reproductive effects - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedMcDonald, T. A. (2002). A perspective on the potential health risks of PBDEs. Chemosphere 46: 11.
Nervous system toxicity - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedViberg, H., Fredriksson, A., Jakobsson, E., Orn, U., Eriksson, P. (2003). Neurobehavioral derangements in adult mice receiving decabrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE 209) during a defined period of neonatal brain development. Toxicol Sci 76(1): 112-20.