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PBDE Flame Retardants

Oregon Law Restricts PBDEs

Oregon law restricts three different types of brominated flame retardants. In general, ORS 453.005-135 bans any product in Oregon commerce if the product contains more than one-tenth of one percent of penta-, octa-, or deca-brominated diphenyl ether.


Polybromodiphenyl ethers (PBDES)

What are they and where they are found?

PBDEs are a group of flame retardant chemicals that are added to products make them less likely to catch on fire. They are added to many household items and consumer products. There is controversy as to whether the benefits of flame retardants are as significant as is claimed.

 

PBDEs are most likely found in polyurethane foam products that were made before 2005, and in electronic equipment of all types. This includes couches, chairs, strollers, mattresses, pillows, automobile fabric and consoles, airplane seats, office furniture, TVs, computers, printers, ink cartridges, remote controls, cell phones, scanners, video equipment and much more. 

 

How do people come into contact with them?

Touching anything that contains PBDEs, mouthing them as children do, sleeping with toys, clothes or other products treated with them are the most common way.

 

As these products age over time, PBDEs escape the material they are added to and eventually become a part of household dust. We breathe in and swallow household dust on a daily basis.

 

What are the health concerns?

Little is known about the direct effects of PBDEs on human health. We do know from animal studies that they can harm the brain by causing learning, memory and behavioral disabilities. Animal studies have also found that PBDEs can disrupt the endocrine system by affecting the way the thyroid, reproductive system and immune systems work. They bioaccumulate and stay in the environment for a very long time.

 

What can I do to protect myself, my family or my employees?

 

Cleaning Practices

  • Take your shoes off and wipe pet feet clean to prevent tracking unwanted chemicals often stuck to dirt throughout the house.
  • Avoid stirring up dust when you clean. The way you dust and the kind of vacuum you use makes a difference. Wet cleaning methods are better than dry dusting, sweeping or vacuuming. A HEPA filter vacuum sucks in and traps dust particles. A regular vacuum can kick up dust and redistribute it throughout your home.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning.  

 

Food Choices

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Foods like meat and dairy contain higher levels of PBDEs than plants.

 

Consumer Actions

  • Find out if the products you own or plan to buy have been treated with flame retardant chemicals. 
  • Check for a tag that indicates that the product meets the flammability requirements of California Technical Bulletin 117. Although this doesn't necessarily indicate that the product was treated with PBDEs, it does inform you that it might have been.
  • Learn more about green chemistry, and designing products to have the least harmful affects on human health. Check out the EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) program and a list of products with the DfE label. 

 

What's being done to protect public health?

There is a new law in Oregon that bans the use of three specific PBDEs in consumer products sold in Oregon.  All products put into commerce after January 1, 2011 must comply with this law.

 

Research is underway to find out more about how PBDEs impact health and the environment.

 

Where can I get more information?

2008 Legislative Report on PBDEs

Safety concerns have been raised over the widespread use and disposal of PBDE flame retardants in consumer products. The Public Health Division released a final report on PBDEs in 2008. You can download and print the final 2008 Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE) Flame Retardants report (pdf).

2009 PBDE Flame Retardant Legislation

  • On December 17, 2009, the principal manufacturers of decaBDE, Albemarle Corporation and Chemtura Corporation, and the principal importer, ICL Industrial Products, Inc., announced their commitment to a three-year phase-out of decaBDE.
  • In 2009, Oregon passed legislation (Senate Bill 596) to restrict decabrominated diphenyl ether (decaBDE) by weight. Read Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 453 concerning hazardous substances.