Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in California
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) considers Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) to be a toxic air contaminant in California. Effective June 1, 2006, California legislature banned two of the main commercial grades of PBDEs, and by the European Union.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a subclass of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) that have been used for several decades. To meet stringent fire standards, manufacturers add BFRs to a multitude of products, including plastic housing of electronics and computers, circuit boards, and the foam and textiles used in furniture. Over time, PBDEs slowly off-gas from these products.
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. PBDE has increased forty-fold in human breast milk since the 1970s. PBDEs accumulate in the body and may do the following: 1) disrupt thyroid hormones, 2) cause developmental deficits, 3) act as a reproductive toxin, and 4) may cause cancer.
Between 2003 and 2006, CARB conducted ambient air monitoring for PBDEs at urban sites throughout California as part of the California Ambient Dioxin Air Monitoring Program. Summary data included totals for the most common congeners of PBDEs as well as totals for up to 36 congeners of PBDEs. Data are summarized by individual sites or by statewide averages.
CARB contracted with researchers at the University of California, Davis, to conduct near-source air monitoring near possible sources of PBDEs. The objectives of this research were to: 1) refine sampling and analysis methods for PBDEs, and 2) determine the air concentration of PBDEs in areas near point sources of PBDEs to better determine potential exposure of people to these chemicals as well as the impact of these operations on the local PBDE air concentrations.
The final report, Near-Source Ambient Air Monitoring of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, summarizes concentrations of PBDEs determined indoors at a computer training laboratory and outdoors at an electronics recycling facility and metal recycling facility. The near-source results and the results from the indoor monitoring at the electronics recycling facility point to the need to further evaluate the health effects from exposure to PBDEs.