Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a particular class of flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals are often used as flame retardants in plastics for TV cabinets, consumer electronics, wire insulation, personal computers and small appliances. The benefit of these chemicals is their ability to slow the ignition and the rate of fire growth. As a result, they increase the available time to escape in the event of a fire.
|Polybrominated diphenyl ether|
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) are part of the wider group of brominated flame retardants. PBDEs are the most widely utilized group of these flame retardants and can make up 5 to 30% of the weight of plastics. They are mixed into the plastic polymers but are not chemically bound to the plastic, which makes it easy for them to leach into the environment. The number of broom atoms and their positions can vary. This leads to a total of 209 different forms of PBDEs. The form which poses the highest environmental threat is pentabromodiphenyl ether.
They are widespread in the environment, persistent and have been detected in tissues of animals from all marine environments. Like PCBs, PBDEs are strongly hydrophobic and therefore adsorb to particles and lipids causing them to bioaccumulate and biomagnify through food chains, even more so than PCBs. Therefore, the highest concentrations of PBDEs have been measured in marine mammals, fish and sea birds, making them the most vulnerable species for PBDE poisoning. PBDEs are suspected to cause reproductive failures by causing estrogenic effects, as well as cause liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity  .
Environmental standards and legislation