Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are a group of commercially produced substances that are used as flame retardants in a wide range of consumer products including television sets, computers, printers, fax machines, carpets, and upholstery. They are structurally related to PCBs and, like PCBs, are produced commercially as mixtures of various chemical configurations, or congeners. Different congeners contain various degrees of bromination, which in turn influence their bioavailability, bioaccumulation potential, persistence, and toxicological properties. Although PBDEs contain structural similarities to PCBs, they have been far less studied from a toxicological perspective and are released into the environment in a very different manner. Research has shown that PBDE mixtures are released from consumer products as these products deteriorate with age. Since PBDEs are used only as additives in other materials, they may leach out of products or volatilize into the environment over many years. The human health effects of exposure to PBDEs have not been well studied. It is not known whether PBDEs cause adverse health effects in humans at environmentally relevant levels.