logoheader center
HomeAboutFor MediaSupportersResourcesDefinitionsContact Us
Create Change


Fact Sheets, studies, videos, and other information on halogenated flame retardant chemicals exposure, health effects and fire safety issues



Latest Studies

READ STATEMENT FROM CFTFFS, READ NEWS ADVISORY (with experts and direct contact info) February 8, 2013

For news advisories, info on legislative hearings and other current information, check our For Media page



Fighting for Safety by Annys Shin Washington Post, January 25 2008

Rather than focusing on tobacco companies, and requiring them to make cigarettes safer, the Consumer Product Safety Commission turned to furniture and added flame retardants. Once the flame retardants began showing signs of health risks, they began to ban them.


Flame retardants in Baby Products - What You Can Do Green Science Policy Institute.

PBDE Fact Sheet The State of Oregon Health Authority Defines PBDEs, what they are used in, how they enter the environment, how they enter humans, health effects and other basic facts regarding the chemicals

PBDEs: What They Are and What You Can Do Washington State Department of Health Defines PBDEs, discusses the various uses and types, and states how they are used the world.

What You Can Do: PBDEs, Mind, Disrupted: How Toxic Chemicals May Change How We Think and Who We Are, a biomonitoring project with the Learning and Developmental Disabilities community. This page talks about how humans are exposed to PBDEs and what 'you' can do to help

Flame Retardants TDCP and TCEP Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC)This article focuses on two PBDEs, TDCP and TCEP. It discusses where these chemicals are found, the exposure and health risks, and the current regulations on each chemical.

A Public Interest Guide to Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals, International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), En Espanol




Flame Retardants Can Make Fires More Dangerous, University of Lancashire study, presented at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. Anna Stec led the research, which focused on the most widely-used category of flame retardants, which contain the chemical element bromine. Scientists term these “halogen-based” flame retardants because bromine is in a group of elements called halogens. Read article.

Halogenated Flame Retardant Chemicals Deliver Few Fire Safety Benefits, Make Fires More Dangerous In a peer-reviewed study presented to the International Symposium on Fire Safety Science on June 21, 2011, scientists found that California's furniture flammability standard Technical Bulletin 117 does not provide measurable fire safety benefits. Read more at Green Science Policy Institute. Read the study

Halogenated Flame Retardants: Do the Fire Safety Benefits Justify the Risks? Reviews on Environmental Health Oct-Dec 2010. Susan Shaw, Arlene Blum, et al. Discusses the major uses and known toxic effects of the organo-halogen flame retardants most commonly used. Alternative solutions are suggested to uphold fire safety, including: using less flammable materials, safer chemicals and implementing design changes.



Chemtura Corporation's "Firemaster 550" Linked to Endocrine Disruption

October 24, 2012 The flame-retardant mixture known as “Firemaster 550” is an endocrine disruptor that causes extreme weight gain, early onset of puberty and cardiovascular health effects in lab animals, according to a new study spearheaded by researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University. “Accumulation and Endocrine Disrupting Effects of the Flame Retardant Mixture Firemaster 550 in Rats: An Exploratory Assessment,” is published online in the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology

Flame retardant linked to autism in genetically-susceptible animals

July 12, 2012 Researchers have found that exposure to a flame retardant chemical during development interacts with a known genetic mutation to impair learning and memory and decrease social behaviours in mice, in what is claimed to be the first study demonstrating that environmental contaminants and genetics can work together to create autism-like symptoms. The research is published in Human Molecular Genetics, and Chemical Watch reported the story.

A Research Strategy to Discover the Environmental Causes of Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities April 25, 2012, Environmental Health PerspectivesExcerpt: Exploration of the environmental causes of autism and other NDDs has been catalyzed by growing recognition of the exquisite sensitivity of the developing human brain to toxic chemicals (Grandjean and Landrigan 2006). This susceptibility is greatest during unique “windows of vulnerability” that open only in embryonic and fetal life and have no later counterpart (Miodovnik 2011).


COMMON FLAME RETARDANT LINKED TO SOCIAL, BEHAVIORAL AND LEARNING DEFICITS Study highlights the interaction between epigenetics and genetics and exposure to a flame retardant in mice. February 16, 2012. Mice genetically engineered to be susceptible to autism-like behaviors that were exposed to a common flame retardant were less fertile and their offspring were smaller, less sociable and demonstrated marked deficits in learning and long-term memory when compared with the offspring of normal unexposed mice, a study by researchers at UC Davis has found. The researchers said the study is the first to link genetics and epigenetics with exposure to a flame retardant chemical. The research was published online in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. It was presented during a symposium on Feb. 18, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) by Janine LaSalle, a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the UC Davis School of Medicine and the UC Davis Genome Center. Read More


PBDES Linked to Lower Birthweight Babies Exposure during pregnancy to flame retardant chemicals commonly found in the home is linked to lower birthweight babies, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. In the study, which appeared Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011 in the peer-reviewed publication American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that every tenfold increase in levels of PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, in a mother’s blood during pregnancy corresponded to a 115 gram (4.1 ounce) drop in her baby’s birthweight. Read more.

PBDEs in Pregnant Women Impact Thyroid Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, documented impacts on thyroid in pregnant women who have PBDE contamination in their bodies. The study was published August 10th, 2011 in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology.

Prenatal Exposure to PBDEs and Neurodevelopment, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University of New York. Published in Environmental Health Perspectives, May 2010. Human studies of flame retardants PBDEs, show exposure may result in neurodevelopment effects. Conclusions find that penta-BDE levels in umbilical cord blood were associated with reduced IQ and physical development in children.

Banned, contemporary chemical widespread in U.S. pregnant women Environmental Health News Service, January 14 2011. Article on study with National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) data. Pregnant women in the U.S. are exposed to many chemicals, some have even been banned and others are still in use. These chemicals may result in harm to the fetus during important development stages.

PBDE Concentrations in Women's Serum and Fecundability Environmental Health Perspectives May 2010. This study found that women who have higher blood levels of penta-BDE, which was used in furniture prior to it's ban in 2004, had a harder time becoming pregnant then those with lower levels.

Thyroid Hormone Understanding Branches Out: Insights into PBDE Impacts on Brain Development Environmental Health Perspectives February 1 2011. The current study showed the action of BDE-209 on TR-mediated transcription also inhibited the growth and branching, or arborization, of Purkinje cell dendrites. These effects may disrupt other aspects of brain development, given that TR-mediated gene expression occurs in many other cells.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE) Flame Retardants and Thyroid Hormone during Pregnancy Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2010. Found that increased levels of penta-BDE in pregnant women were inversely associated with TSH levels. Also, found that the odds of subclinical hyperthyroidism were significantly elevated in participants of the study who had the highest exposure levels.

Hexabromocyclododecane decreases tumor-cell-binding capacity and cell-surface protein expression of human natural killer cells Journal of Applied Technology November 24 2009. This study found that exposure to the flame retardant HBDC, which is currently used in building insulation, decreased the binding function as well as cell-surface marker expression in human natural killer cells. Thus, HBDC has the potential to increase cancer incidence and viral infections.

PBDEs: Small differences, big toxic changes, Environmental Health Perspectives, May 16 2011. Article describes new study where researchers identified which different types of PBDEs activate or inhibit ryanodine receptors in human kidney cells. The PBDEs that inappropriately activated the ryanodine receptor in the kidney cells also caused cell death in neurons isolated from rat brains. Ryanodine receptors are found in human brains, too.

Routes of Exposure



Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) Stereoisomers in U.S. Food from Dallas, Texas May 31, 2012, Environmental Health Perspectives

Breast milk contains flame retardants with exposure patterns similar to phased-out BPDEs Environmental Health News February 24 2011. Article on study that looked at flame retardants found in high levels in breast milk, raising strong concerns about continuing use of these chemicals in consumer products.

Detection of organophosphate flame retardants in furniture foam and U.S. house dust Environmental Science & Technology October 2009. This study tested 26 pieces of furniture purchased in the U.S. and 50 household dust samples to determine what chemicals were used in place of BPDEs, since that information is not made accessible to the public.

Exposure to PBDEs from Hand to Mouth Contact, Environmental Science & TechnologyMarch 19 2008. Human exposure to PBDEs is 20 times higher in Americans than Europeans. In this study, PBDE exposure routes are explored by examining everyday human behavior. PDF download

Butter Contaminated by PBDE Flame Retardant, Science Daily, December 7 2010.

Article on study of samples of butter from a grocery store contained high levels of deca-BDE, a common PBDE compound.



Dust in Offices Contaminated with Halogenated Flame Retardant Chemicals. June 30th, 2011 in Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that polybrominated diethers (PBDEs), banned in an international treaty, are in the dust of over thirty Boston offices. Read News Advisory.

Estimating Human Exposure to PBDE-47 Via Air, Food, and Dust Using Monte Carlo Methods Organohalogen Compounds, 2005. Various routes of exposure to a specific PBDE, BDE 47 is examined. Routes include dietary intake, inhalation through air, and indoor environment exposure. The conclusion shows that doses found in infants are almost fully due to diet, which makes up the majority of exposure to adults as well.

Unwelcome Guest: PBDEs in Indoor Dust, Environmental Health Perspectives, May 1 2008. This article discusses PBDEs and their presence in U.S. populations. Dust is focused on as a source of PBDE accumulation and various routes of exposure are examined. Health effects are also investigated.

Concentrations and loadings of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in dust from low-income households in California, Environment International April 2011. It is hypothesized that California residents face the highest levels of PBDE due to that states very strict furniture flammability standards. Intake of the chemicals by children and adults in California exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recommended level.

House Dust Concentrations of Organophosphate Flame Retardants in Relation to Hormone Levels and Semen Quality Parameters, Environmental Health Perspectives March 2010. Concentrations of PBDEs including chlorinated tris (TDCPP) found in household dust, is associated with altered hormone levels and decreased semen quality in men. TDCPP is used in furniture and baby products to meet California's furniture flammability standard TB117.



Factors Associated with Serum Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE) Levels Among School-Age Children in the CHAMACOS Cohort

June 1, 2012 Environmental Science & Technology Factors positively associated with higher PBDE levels in the children were total PBDE levels in maternal serum during pregnancy, duration of exclusive breastfeeding, and having no safe places to play in their neighborhood........ Our findings confirm that exposure to the penta-BDE mixture is ongoing, and that Mexican-American children living in California may be experiencing higher PBDE exposure from their environment compared to children sampled from the general U.S. population.


Nanotechnology Spells Danger For Firefighters Firehouse.com April 24, 2012

PBDE Levels In Children Linked To Neighborhood Conditions, Environmental Science & Technology June 1, 2012

Serum PPBDEs in a North Carolina Toddler Cohort: Associations with Hand Wipes, House Dust and Socioeconomic Variables May 23, 2012. Environmental Health Perspectives. Read Advisory

Hidden Hazards in the Nursery January 11, 2012: Crib Mattress Report


New Guide to Toxic Chemicals In Cars, Michigan Ecology Center Report February 16, 2012

Flame Retardant Dilemma: Do Flame Retardants Save Lives? February 10, 2012

Contaminated Dust in Offices, new study published June 30th, 2011 in Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that polybrominated diethers (PBDEs), banned in an international treaty, are in the dust of over thirty Boston offices. Read News Advisory.

Identification of Flame Retardants in Polyurethane Foam Collected from Baby Products, Environmental Technology & Science Journal May 18 2011.

California’s Poor, Mexican American Kids Highly Exposed to Flame Retardants Environmental Health News Service, April 19 2011. Article on on-going CHAMACOS study at University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, following chemical exposures and body burden of California children.

Significantly Higher Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether Levels in Young U.S. Children then in their Mothers Environmental Science & Technology, June 11 2010 BPDEs are found in highly levels in children than their mothers in the U.S., where the chemicals are used in a lot of the furniture found in their indoor environment. The study concludes that children are at greater risk of ingesting environmental contaminates than adults.

Studies Find Remarkably High Levels of Flame Retardants in California’s Children. Environmental Health News May 3 2010 Article describes this first set of studies to measure PBDEs in a large group of children who live in California. Taken together, these studies confirm that California's children have higher body burdens of PBDEs than children in other parts of the world – including Europe and Mexico – and most adults who do not work with the chemicals.

San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants, Environmental Health Perspectives October 28 2010. Over 200 scientists sign statement stating the need for a phase-out on entire class of halogenated flame retardant chemicals. States the current knowledge and facts about brominated and chlorinated flame retardants as well as the actions being taken regarding them.

Out of the frying pan and out of the fire: the indispensable role of exposure science in avoiding risks from replaceable chemicals Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 2010. The article discusses how exposure science can move us towards alternative chemicals and more protective policies, which will prevent human and ecological risks.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Arlene Blum, PhD. Dr. Blum presents at a TEDX talk. December 16 2010. This video discusses the hazards of plastic; the toxic flame retardants used in plastics and other everyday products. This video briefly summarizes the flame retardant problem and solutions.

AAP Says U.S. Fails to Protect Children from Hazardous Chemicals, American Academy of Pediatrics, April 25 2011. Announcement of statement from AAP calling for chemical regulations reform with environmental health protections for children


Flame Retardants at High Levels in pet Dogs, Study Finds, Science Daily, April 26, 2011. Article reports on Indiana University study published in Environmental Science & Technology demonstrating higher levels of PBDEs than previously thought,

Toxic Flame Retardants PSA Ocean Futures Society Synthetic chemicals (PBDEs) used in furniture, children's clothes, electronic, etc; to make them less flammable are leaking into the air. They are entering children, whales, deep sea octopus and all of nature; leaving long term health effects. Argues that PBDEs should be banned.

New Pollutants: Flame Retardants Detected in Peregrine Falcon Eggs Science Daily, April 28 2011, Article reports on new studies in Spain and Canada seeing presence of dechorlane plus and other chlorinated compounds use as flame retardants in European flora and fauna.

Tracking Polybrominated diphenul ethers (PBDEs) During Conventional Wastewater treatment, Paper presented at the Geological Society of America 60th Annual Meeting. March 2011. Investigation focuses on Charleston Harbor PBDE measurements in bottle nosed dolphins found PBDE concentrations higher than previous national measurements.

Resources for Chemicals Reform

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families working on federal reform of the Toxic Substance and Control Act of 1976.

SAFER States: working on state reform of chemical regulations.

Californians for a Healthy & Green Economy (CHANGE) CA based group working on reform of toxic regulations.

See also Supporters

Environmental Protection Agency Summary of the Toxic Substances Control Act

Safe Chemicals Act of 2011