chemical Class

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

Chemicals in the class:

PBDE-1, PBDE-154/PBB-153, PBDE-2, PBDE-3, PBDE-7, PBDE-8, PBDE-10, PBDE-11, PBDE-12, PBDE-13, PBDE-15, PBDE-17, PBDE-25, PBDE-28, PBDE-30, PBDE-32, PBDE-33, PBDE-35, PBDE-37, PBDE-47, PBDE-49, PBDE-51, PBDE-66, PBDE-71, PBDE-75, PBDE-77, PBDE-79, PBDE-85, PBDE-99, PBDE-100, PBDE-105, PBDE-116, PBDE-119, PBDE-120, PBDE-126, PBDE-128, PBDE-131, PBDE-138, PBDE-140, PBDE-153, PBDE-154, PBDE-155, PBDE-166, PBDE-181, PBDE-183, PBDE-190, PBDE-196, PBDE-197, PBDE-201, PBDE-203, PBDE-206, PBDE-207, PBDE-208, PBDE-209

Found in these people:

Anonymous Adult 2, Anonymous Adult 3, Anonymous Adult 5, Anonymous Adult 4, Anonymous Adult 6, Anonymous Adult 7, Anonymous Teen 1, Anonymous Adult 9, Anonymous Adult 12, Anonymous Adult 13, Anonymous Adult 11, Anonymous Adult 10, Anonymous Adult 14, Anonymous Adult 15, Anonymous Adult 16, Anonymous Adult 17, Anonymous Adult 18, Anonymous Adult 20, Anonymous Adult 21, Baby #1, Baby #2, Baby #3, Baby #4, Baby #5, Baby #6, Baby #7, Baby #8, Baby #9, Baby #10, Anonymous Adult 1, Kathy Fowler, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter, Jenna Meyer, Katrina Alcorn, Tiffany Kimball, Teri Olle, Margaret Hardin, Susan Comfort, Angela Strother, Jill, Anonymous, Rani Corey-Sheaffer, Anonymous, Meredith Buhalis, Darcy White, Jennifer Scheinz, Laurie Yung, Lisa, Anonymous, Leila Feldman, Susanne Green, Erika Schreder, Participant #1, Participant #10, Fred Gellert, Adelaide Gomer, Ann Hunter-Welborn, Jesse Johnson, Anonymous Adult, Winsome McIntosh, Judi Shils, Participant #18, Lynde Uihlein, Participant #2, Participant #20, Jessica Welborn, Alicia Wittink, Irene Crowe, Martha Davis, Emily Sayrs, Participant #6, Anonymous Adult RN7, Anonymous Teen 22, Anonymous Adult RN9, Sara Corbett, Anonymous Child #17, Anonymous Mom #17, Teo, Bronwyn, Olivia Brune, Mary Brune, Nicolas, Tess, Anonymous Mom #13, Anonymous Child #13, Naomi Carrigg, Laura Spark, Anonymous Child #11, Anonymous Mom #11, Mckenzie Green, Susanne Fleek, Lauren, Christi, Hannelore Peters, Erika Schreder, Conner Adams, Laurie Yung, Brynn Dickman, Hillary Dickman, Elijah Scheinz, Jennifer Scheinz, Natalie Comerford, Teri Olle, Tavin , Greta Hardin, Ruby Alcorn, Katrina Alcorn, Anonymous Child #42, Susan Comfort, Tracy Herndon, Zade Little, Maija West, Eva West, Liz, Evan, Dr. Beverly Wright, Adult #108, Adult B, Vivian Chang, Jennifer Hill-Kelley, Suzie Canales, Jean Salone, Cord Blood Sample 11, Cord Blood Sample 12, Cord Blood Sample 13, Cord Blood Sample 14, Cord Blood Sample 15, Cord Blood Sample 16, Cord Blood Sample 17, Cord Blood Sample 18, Cord Blood Sample 19, Cord Blood Sample 20

Found in these locations:

Chicago, IL; Newton, MA; Fredericksburg, VA; Washington, DC; New York, NY; Lamont, FL; Atlanta, GA; Mountain View, CA; Stanford, CA; Palo Alto, CA; San Francisco, CA; Berkeley, CA; Alamo, CA; Fallbrook, CA; Rockville, MD; Upstate New York, NY; Oakland, CA; La Habra Heights, CA; Evergreen, CO; Gainesville, FL; Canton, GA; Dorchester, MA; Jamiaca Plain, MA; Ann Arbor, MI; Raytown, MO; Helena, MT; Missoula, MT; Portland, OR; Nashville, TN; Austin, TX; Burke, VA; Seattle, WA; CA, USA; Belvedere, CA; Ithaca, NY; Encinitas, CA; Ross, CA; VA, USA; Milwaukee, WI; CO, USA; Littleton, CO; MD, USA; NY, USA; Riverside, CA; Alameda, CA; Boston, MA; Anchorage, AK; Minneapolis, MN; Colorado Springs, CO; Lake Forest Park, WA; Taos, NM; Clinton, CT; New Orleans, LA; 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 upholstery– and to electronic products.

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. 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)

Some PBDEs 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) Deca, the form used in electronics, continues to be used in televisions, computer monitors and other electronic products. There is widespread concern that Deca breaks down in the environment to more toxic and persistent forms. Despite their phase-out from commerce, Americans continue to be exposed to them daily, and will be for decades to come.

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

Brominated fire retardants currently used in plastics and fabric. Recently banned in foam furniture and vehicle interiors. The major current use is in electronic devices. PBDEs are neurotoxic and persist in people and the environment.

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) has been found in 138 of the 138 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies.

Top health concerns for Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) (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.