California Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) Program

This page last reviewed November 10, 2010

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PBDEs in California

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of fire retardants that have been used for several decades. Three main commercial grades of PBDEs have been used in foams in furniture and automobiles, in electronic printed circuit boards, in electronics casings, in carpet backing, and in upholstery. Over time, PBDEs slowly off-gas from these products. PBDEs accumulate in the body. In recent years, concerns have increased as concentrations have been found to be increasing in ecological and human samples. Potential exposure can occur through ingestion and inhalation. PBDEs may disrupt thyroid hormones, may cause developmental deficits, may act as a reproductive toxin, and may cause cancer. The ARB considers PBDEs to be a toxic air contaminant in California. Two of the main commercial grades of PBDEs have been banned from use by the California Legislature, effective June 1, 2006, and by the European Union.

What is ARB doing about PBDEs?

Ambient Air Monitoring of PBDEs
ARB has conducted ambient air monitoring for PBDEs at urban sites throughout California. The monitoring was conducted as part of the California Ambient Dioxin Air Monitoring Program (CADAMP). Data are summarized by individual sites or by statewide averages. Data are also presented as sums of the most common congeners of PBDEs and as the sums of the entire list of congeners.  Click here to go to CADAMP Monitoring Program. 

Near-source air monitoring of PBDEs
ARB contracted with researchers at the University of California, Davis, to conduct near-source air monitoring near possible sources of PBDEs. Monitoring was conducted: 1) outdoors and indoors at an electronics recycling facility, 2) outdoors at an automobile shredding/metal recycling facility, and 3) inside a computer training laboratory.  The final report, Near-Source Ambient Air Monitoring of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, is available on-line.