chemical Class

Octabrominated diphenyl ether

Chemicals in the class:


Found in these people:

Jesse Johnson, Participant #10, Anonymous Adult RN9, Anonymous Adult RN7, Fred Gellert, Participant #18, Baby #8, Baby #10, Baby #6, Baby #2, Baby #7, Baby #9, Baby #3, Baby #4, Baby #5, Anonymous Adult 1, Baby #1, Kathy Fowler, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter, Anonymous Adult 21, Anonymous Adult 18, Anonymous Adult 20, Anonymous Adult 17, Anonymous Adult 14, Anonymous Adult 15, Anonymous Adult 16, Anonymous Adult 10, Anonymous Adult 11, Anonymous Adult 13, Anonymous Adult 9, Anonymous Teen 1, Anonymous Adult 7, Anonymous Adult 6, Anonymous Adult 4, Anonymous Adult 5, Anonymous Adult 3, Anonymous Adult 2, Sara Corbett, Adult B, Adult #108, Vivian Chang, Jennifer Hill-Kelley, Jean Salone, Suzie Canales, Cord Blood Sample 19, Cord Blood Sample 18, Cord Blood Sample 16, Cord Blood Sample 14, Cord Blood Sample 13, Cord Blood Sample 11

Found in these locations:

New York, NY; CA, USA; Belvedere, CA; VA, USA; Rockville, MD; Upstate New York, NY; Alamo, CA; Fallbrook, CA; San Francisco, CA; Palo Alto, CA; Berkeley, CA; Stanford, CA; Atlanta, GA; Lamont, FL; Washington, DC; Fredericksburg, VA; Newton, MA; Chicago, IL; NY, USA; Oakland, CA; Green Bay, WI; Corpus Christi, TX


PBDEs are brominated fire retardants, intentionally added to flexible foam furniture--primarily mattresses, couches, padded chairs, pillows, carpet padding and vehicle upholstry.

These chemicals were withdrawn from the US market in 2005 due to their toxicity to laboratory animals, and their detection as contaminants in humans, wildlife, house and office buildings and common foods. (Sjodin 2003) People are primarily exposed to PBDEs in their homes, offices and vehicles. Secondary sources are foods, primarily meat, dairy, fish and eggs. (Schecter, Papke et al. 2005)

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)

PBDEs are bioaccumulative and lipophilic ('fat-loving') therefore highly persistent in people and the environment. The chemicals build up in the body, are stored in fatty tissues and body fluids, such as blood and breast milk, and can be passed on to fetuses and infants during pregnancy and lactation. Despite their phase-out from commerce, human exposure will continue for decades to come.

Octabrominated diphenyl ether

Brominated flame retardants used in plastics. Break down into more toxic and persistent forms in the environment. Withdrawn from the market in the U.S. in 2005.

Octabrominated diphenyl ether has been found in 56 of the 118 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Top health concerns for Octabrominated diphenyl ether (References)

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

Toxicity Classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
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.
Reproductive effects - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedMcDonald, T. A. (2002). A perspective on the potential health risks of PBDEs. Chemosphere 46: 11.