PBT photo identifier


What are PBDEs?

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardant chemicals added to a wide variety of household products to delay combustion. PBDEs have been used extensively for the last 30 years with the U.S. and Canada being the largest consumers. Studies have shown that PBDEs are toxic and are escaping from these products and accumulating in people and the environment throughout the world. The highest levels of PBDEs have been found in the U.S. and Canada and are more than 10 times higher than those found in Europe. PBDEs have been found in human breast milk, blood and fat, house dust and indoor air, fish, wildlife, birds, beef, dairy products and sediments.

There are three main types of PBDEs used in consumer products: Penta-BDE, Octa-BDE and Deca-BDE. Each of these types of PBDEs has different uses and different toxicity. Manufacturers of Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE agreed to voluntarily stop producing these two forms of PBDEs by the end of 2004. In 2009, three major producers of Deca-BDE arrived at an agreement with U.S. EPA to stop producing, importing, and selling Deca-BDE by the end of 2012.


Washington's PBDE Law (RCW 70.76) placed several restrictions on the use of PBDEs in products sold in Washington State. Under this law:
  • Effective January 1, 2008, no person may manufacture, knowingly sell, or distribute for in-state use products containing PBDEs. Several types of products are exempted from this prohibition, including transportation equipment, medical devices, and certain recycled materials. Additionally, deca-BDE is handled differently under the law.
  • Deca-BDE is prohibited in mattresses effective January 1st, 2008.
  • Effective January 1st, 2011, Deca-BDE is also prohibited in televisions, computers, and residential upholstered furniture. Before this prohibition could take effect, the law required Ecology and the Department of Health to identify that a safer and technically feasible alternative is available that meets fire safety standards. See the report, "Alternatives to Deca-BDE in Televisions and Computers and Residential Upholstered Furniture" for more information.
  • Click here for de minimis guidance regarding the Department of Ecology's implementation of the requirements of the PBDE law.
The PBDE Law resulted from the Chemical Action Plan for PBDEs published in January 2006. As part of the CAP, Syracuse Research Corporation produced a report on health and environmental impacts of alternatives to deca-BDE.

How do I prevent exposure to PBDEs?

The Washington State Department of Health has additional information on how humans are exposed to PBDEs and how to reduce exposure. In addition, the Northwest Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at the University of Washington has produced a factsheet on PBDEs for pediatric health professionals.