Safer Products

We are working toward Safer California households, workplaces and products

Frequently Asked Questions on PBDEs (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers)

What are PBDEs?

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, bromine-containing flame retardants were commonly added to furniture, infant products, and electronics for many years. They have spread through the environment and break down slowly. U.S. production of some widely used PBDEs ended as of 2006.

Where can PBDEs be found?

They can be found in Polyurethane foam in furniture, pillows, motor vehicle seats, and baby products, like car seats and changing table pads, as well as in some hard plastic casings for electronics, such as TVs and computers; and some mattresses, upholstery fabric, draperies, wires and cables. They can also be found in carpet padding made from recycled or scrap polyurethane foam, dust in homes, offices, and cars that contain products made with PBDEs, as well as in some high-fat foods like sausages, high-fat cheese, butter and fatty fish.

What Legislative Action has been taken in California on PBDEs?

In 2003, the first significant legislative action in California was taken with the passage of Assembly Bill 302, authored by former Assembly Member Wilma Chan (D-Oakland). The bill banned two forms of PBDEs. They are pentabrominated diphenyl ethers (penta BDEs) and octabrominated diphenyl ethers (octa BDEs).

What Legislative Action has been taken across the nation on PBDEs? (#whatactionnation)

There are about 174 legislative bills adopted in 35 states targeting the use of flame retardants. Twenty four states, including California, are also considering new laws against toxic flame retardants.

What are some of the health concerns associated with PBDEs?

When absorbed into the body PBDEs may interfere with the body’s natural hormones. They may also harm the developing fetus and infant, possibly affecting later learning and behavior and may decrease fertility.

How can exposure to PBDEs be reduced?

Actions that may help reduce exposure include:

  • Washing your hands frequently, especially before eating or preparing food
  • Washing the hands of your children often. Infants and toddlers get a lot of dust on their hands when they play or crawl on the floor
  • Clean your floors regularly and use a damp cloth to dust
  • Replace upholstered furniture that is torn or has crumbling foam
  • Include plenty of variety in your diet

Source: BioMonitoring California