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PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers)

Q: Where Am I Exposed?

People are exposed to PBDEs at home, at school, and in cars and buses. For many years, PBDEs have been added to these products: mattresses, futons and other cushions; pillows, mattress pads and other bedding; casings for appliances, televisions and computers; cars, airplanes and buses; textiles such as carpeting, draperies and upholstery fabric (Fabrics for clothing are treated with other flame retardants, not PBDEs.) PBDEs are released from these products into the air and combine with dust that then settles onto household surfaces. PBDEs are also found increasingly in food, especially oils and fats, fish and shellfish, meat and meat products, and eggs.

Q: What Can I Do?

  • Purchase mattresses and bedding made with materials, such as wool, that are naturally flame retardant and meet flammability standards without added chemicals. Avoid products like old mattresses that contain PBDEs;
  • Ventilate and clean your house to avoid the build-up of PBDEs in the air and dust. When you dust and mop, use a damp rag and mop to avoid stirring up the dust and spreading PBDEs into the air;
  • Limit how much fat and other high-PBDE foods you eat. Offer smaller portions of meats, fish, and eggs, and add more fruits and vegetables to your family‚Äôs diet;
  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers can reduce their exposure to PBDEs to avoid passing them to their children;
  • Ask your government officials and policymakers to reduce levels of PBDEs in your community by supporting the manufacture and use of safer flame retardant chemicals such as aluminum trihydroxide, ammonium polyphosphate and red phosphorus in furniture and electronic equipment.

Adapted from the Practice Prevention Columns on the Collaborative on Health and the Environment website, and other sources as indicated.