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Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

CAS Registry Numbers: tetraBDE [40088-47-9]; pentaBDE [32534-81-9]; hexaBDE [36483-60-0]; heptaBDE [68928-80-3]; octaBDE [32536-52-0]; nonaBDE [63936-56-1]; and decaBDE [1163-19-5]

What are they?

  • PBDEs are a class of chemical substances (which includes tetra-, penta-, hexa-, hepta-, octa-, nona- and decaBDE congeners) that are generally found in three commercial mixtures: PentaBDE, OctaBDE and DecaBDE

How are they used?

  • PBDEs are used as flame retardants to slow the ignition and spread of fire. In general, plastics are the primary end use for flame retardants, due to their inherent flammability
  • PBDEs can be found in many items, such as building and automobile materials, carpet underlay, furniture foam, and electrical and electronic equipment. Smaller markets include textiles, adhesives and sealants, rubber products and coatings
  • PBDEs may be found in a range of consumer products, mainly plastics
  • The use of the PentaBDE and OctaBDE commercial mixtures has been phased-out internationally and in Canada since 2006

Why Did the Government of Canada Assess Them?

  • PBDEs were identified for screening assessment under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, on the basis of their potential persistence and/or bioaccumulation in the environment, and inherent toxicity to organisms
  • PBDEs can be released to the environment throughout their lifecycle, from the handling and manufacturing of the chemicals to the products which contain them
  • Government of Canada screening assessments show a risk to wildlife and invertebrates from PBDEs, but that current exposure to PBDEs for humans is well below levels that cause health effects in animals
  • Three forms of PBDEs (tetra-, penta- and hexaBDE), which are found mainly in the Penta- and OctaBDE commercial mixtures, meet the criteria for virtual elimination under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

What Is the Government of Canada Doing?

  • The Government of Canada has declared PBDEs "toxic", as defined under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
  • In September 2006, the Government of Canada published a risk management strategy for addressing releases of PBDEs in Canada
  • The Government of Canada finalized the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers Regulations, which came into force on June 19, 2008, These Regulations prohibit the manufacture of all PBDEs in Canada, and restricting the import, use and sale of PBDEs found in commercial mixtures of greatest concern (Penta- and OctaBDE)
  • Additional actions being developed to complement these Regulations include:
    • a regulation to control PBDEs in manufactured products;
    • a voluntary approach to minimize releases to the environment from the use of the DecaBDE commercial mixture in manufacturing operations in Canada;
    • a detailed review of recently published science on decaBDE, to determine whether further controls on DecaBDE commercial mixture are warranted; and
    • monitoring Canadians' exposure to PBDEs and concentrations in the environment