PBDE in Fire Retardants Cause Cancer; PBDE Information


PBDE's in Fire Retardants

What are PBDE’s? 
PBDE’s (polybrominated diphenyl) are brominated flame retardant chemicals which are structurally similar to PCBs.

PBDE’s are added to consumer goods and are found in:
   - upholstered furniture
   - electronics such as computers, microwaves, stereos, tv’s, mobile phones 
   - polyurethane foam mattresses 
   - carpet padding 
   - cushions 
   - carpets etc. 

5% to 30% of the product’s net weight is PBDE’s

There are 3 types of PBDE’s 
1) Deca-BDE
2) Octa-BDE
3) Penta-BDE


What are the health effects of PBDE’s?
PBDE’s affect thyroid hormone functions and can impair the developing central nervous system and brain. They cause cancer in rats and mice who ate PBDE tainted food over several years.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has classified PBDE as a possible human carcinogen.

PBDE accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and animals. In 1999 Swedish researches discovered breast milk contained much more PBDE than detected 25 years earlier. Americans double the amount of PBDE in their bodies ever 4-6 years and have an estimated 10-20 times more PBDE’s in their bodies compared to Europeans.


Why aren’t BDE’s banned?
2 types of PBDE’s or polybrominated diphenyl ethers are banned in the European Union (in effect August 2004), certain types in California (2006), Hawaii (2008) and Maine (2006), Washington State (2011).

Many states such as Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, New York and Washington are looking into requires labeling or prohibiting the sale of products containing brominated chemicals


What is Canada Doing?
Health Canada’s goal is to reduce the amount of PBDE’s in the environment which, if compared to other countries, should reduce the exposure to humans.

According to Health Canada, the human intake of PBDE’s in the environment is much greater than exposure to household items wich include PBDE fire retardants.

PBDE links on Health Canada’s website.


Minimizing your Exposure to PBDE’s
Steps to reducing your exposure to PBDE’s

1) Some manufactures now produce PBDE free electronics, carpet padding, upholstered furniture etc without PDBE’s. Dell, Sony and Canon have already phased out PBDEs.

Before buying a product, ask the retailer is they are free of PBDE’s.

2) Fatty tissues are where PBDE’s are stored. Reducing your intake of animal fats will help.

3) Dust often. PBDE accumulate in household dust and the air you and your children breathe.

4) Furniture foams and carpet pads should be covered if exposed.

Canadian PBDE Free Mattress
Essentia, a Canadian company making memory foam mattresses which are free of PBDE's. This Montreal based company manufacturers all their mattresses outside Montreal Quebec. Their proprietary natural memory foam outperform both latex mattresses and Tempurpedic mattresses.

Essentia mattresses and pillows have been recognized by Health Canada and Medicus

Additional Resources