Brominated Flame Retardants

Volume 16 of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry pp 19-53


Human Health Effects of Brominated Flame Retardants

  • Daniele Staskal WikoffAffiliated withToxStrategies Email author 
  • , Linda BirnbaumAffiliated withNational Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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In this chapter, we review human health effects associated with the brominated flame retardants (BFRs) that have constituted the overwhelming majority of BFR production and subsequent exposure in humans. These include tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), and three commercial mixtures of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), or biphenyl oxides, which are known as decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE), octabromodiphenyl ether (OctaBDE), and pentabromodiphenyl ether (PentaBDE). The primary endpoint of concern appears to be endocrine disruption. Other potential effects include hepatotoxicity and neurotoxicity, the later particularly during development. While the toxicological database for these chemicals is growing, further research is needed to understand potential health effects associated with less-studied PBDE congeners, examine the potential carcinogenicity of HBCD and TBBPA, and investigate the overall toxicity of a number of developing alternative BFRs. The increasing contamination of the environment and people by BFRs coupled with clear evidence of adverse health effects resulting from their exposure highlights the importance of identifying emerging issues and data gaps to fully understand the human health risks.


Endocrine disruption Hexabromocyclododecane Polybrominated diphenyl ether Tetrabromobisphenol A Thyroid hormones