Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
- What chemicals are addressed in the Action Plan?
- Why is EPA concerned about these chemicals?
- What action is EPA taking?
- Previous Actions
- Current Actions
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) include the commercial versions of pentabromodiphenyl ether (c-pentaBDE), octabromodiphenyl ether (c-octaBDE), and decabromodiphenyl ether (c-decaBDE). Each of these commercial products is a mixture composed of several PBDE congeners. PBDEs are used as flame retardants in a number of applications, including textiles, plastics, wire insulation, and automobiles.
EPA is concerned that certain PBDE congeners are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment. The critical endpoint of concern for human health is neurobehavioral effects. Various PBDEs have also been studied for ecotoxicity in mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates. In some cases, current levels of exposure for wildlife may be at or near adverse effect levels.
PBDEs are not chemically bound to plastics, foam, fabrics, or other products in which they are used, making them more likely to leach out of these products. Despite the United States having phased out the manufacture and import of penta- and octaBDE in 2004, their component congeners are being detected in humans and the environment. Some reports indicate that levels are increasing. One potential source is imported articles to which these compounds have been added. Another is the possible breakdown of decaBDE in the environment to more toxic and bioaccumulative PBDE congeners.
EPA has concerns with decaBDE’s hazards as well as its potential to be transformed to other PBDE congeners. DecaBDE was included in EPA’s Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP), which identified a number of tests needed to better understand decaBDE’s potential for transformation.
What action is EPA taking?
Based on EPA’s screening-level review of hazard and exposure information, EPA's action plan called for EPA to:
Initiate rulemaking to propose a TSCA section 5(a)(2) significant new use rule (SNUR) requiring notice to the Agency prior to the manufacture or import of articles to which c-pentaBDE or c-octaBDE have been added.
- EPA proposed to amend the PBDE SNUR (PDF) by: (1) designating processing of any combination of the six PBDE congeners contained in c-pentaBDE or c-octaBDE for any use which is not ongoing, as a significant new use (2) designating manufacturing, importing, or processing of decaBDE for any use which is not ongoing after December 31, 2013, as a significant new use and (3) designating the manufacture (including import) or processing of any article to which PBDEs had been added a significant new use. Any person who intended to import a PBDE as part of an article for a significant new use would be subject to significant new use reporting. Ongoing uses would be excluded from the SNUR. Read the proposed PBDE SNUR Read the press release.
- Support and encourage the voluntary phase-out of manufacture and import of c-decaBDE. EPA received commitments from the principal manufacturers and importers of c-decaBDE to initiate reductions in the manufacture, import and sales of c-decaBDE starting in 2010, with all sales to cease by December 31, 2013. EPA encouraged other importers of c-decaBDE to join this initiative. As part of this encouragement, EPA developed the Design for the Environment and Green Chemistry alternatives Assessment for c-decaBDE to aid users in selecting suitable alternatives.
- October 2010: EPA began the Design for the Environment alternatives assessment that evaluates and compares potential hazards associated with decaBDE and 29 alternatives.
- July 30, 2012: EPA issued the draft “An Alternatives Assessment for the Flame-Retardant Decabromodiphenyl Ether (DecaBDE)" (PDF) for comment. Read more.
- January 29, 2014: Through its Design for the Environment program, EPA has released the final "An Alternatives Assessment for the Flame Retardant Decabromodiphenyl Ether (DecaBDE). Read more.
- Initiate rulemaking to propose a simultaneous SNUR and test rule for c-decaBDE. The significant new use would be manufacture, (including import) of c-decaBDE or articles to which c-decaBDE has been added. The TSCA section 4 test rule would require development of information necessary to determine the effects of manufacturing, use or other activities involving c-decaBDE on human health or the environment. If the Agency determines that manufacture (including import) of c-decaBDE or of articles to which c-decaBDE has been added has not ceased.
- EPA proposed a PBDE SNUR and simultaneously proposed a TSCA section 4 test rule for c-pentaBDE, c-octaBDE, and c-decaBDE. The test rule would require development of information necessary to determine the effects of manufacturing, processing, or other activities involving these c-PBDEs on human health or the environment. EPA intends to promulgate the test rule if it determines that manufacture (including import) or processing of c-PBDEs, including in articles, has not ceased by December 31, 2013. Read the proposed PBDE SNUR and Test Rule. Read the press release.
Read the proposed PBDE SNUR and Test Rule.