MassDEP considers polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as ongoing emerging contaminants due to new scientific information indicating that exposures to them are widespread, no standards for PBDEs have been set, and human health effects information is evolving.

PBDEs are a class of halogenated flame retardants that are commonly used in a wide array of consumer goods. Examples include furniture foam padding, wire insulation, rugs, draperies, upholstery and plastic cabinets for personal computers, televisions, and small appliances. Because PBDEs do not bind chemically to polymers in textiles or plastics, they can leach out and be washed down sink and shower drains or become part of household or office dust, where they can be present in high concentrations. Also, PBDEs can be introduced into water and air during manufacture or disposal of household appliances. They are bioaccumulative (build up in the environment over time) and lipophilic (stored in fat). In animal studies, these chemicals have shown some effects on the thyroid and liver, as well as on brain development. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to PBDEs.

MassDEP Workplan:

  • Follow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Action Plan.
  • Determine any potential future actions by MassDEP.

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