Toxic Flame Retardants

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that levels of PBDEs are increasing in the environment and in our bodies. Studies of human breast milk have shown a relationship between usage of these chemicals and levels in breast milk. Research by the Environmental Working Group demonstrated that North American women have higher levels of PBDEs in their breast milk than women in Europe, where use of PBDEs is lower.

PBDEs build up in the food chain, including wildlife and human food sources, including fish.

At very low levels, PBDEs can impair memory, learning, and behavior in laboratory animals. They also affect thyroid hormones and other bodily functions. Most at risk are developing fetuses, infants, and young children.

Are there alternatives to PBDEs?

Fortunately, we can have safe products that meet fire safety standards without the use of PBDEs.

  • Research by independent agencies in many states have evaluated the effectiveness of alternatives, leading to new policies in Hawaii, Maine, and Washington State that restrict deca PBDE (penta and octa are no longer produced in the United States, but millions of pounds remain in our homes and environment due to extensive use in consumer products).
  • Many companies are already moving away from the use of PBDEs, including Ikea, Dell, and Hewlett Packard.

Visit the Clean Production Action website for information on specific studies and alternatives