Brominated Flame Retardants and Their Replacements in Food Packaging and Household Products: Uses, Human Exposure, and Health Effects

  • Susan D. Shaw
  • Jennifer H. Harris
  • Michelle L. Berger
  • Bikram Subedi
  • Kurunthachalam Kannan
Part of the Molecular and Integrative Toxicology book series (MOLECUL)


Since the 1970s, the brominated flame retardants (BFRs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDs), and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) have been used as additive or reactive flame retardants (FRs) in household products including foam furniture, baby products, mattresses, textiles, electronics, food packaging, and housing insulation to meet flammability standards. Many of these chemicals are now recognized as global contaminants and are associated with adverse health effects including endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, developmental neurotoxicity, and cancer. Additive BFRs migrate out of products and accumulate in dust of indoor environments. Dust ingestion is the primary route of human exposure to BFRs, and studies link body burdens of adults and children to indoor dust concentrations. Because of health concerns, PentaBDE and OctaBDE mixtures were phased out of production in 2005, and DecaBDE and HBCDs are scheduled for global elimination by 2013. However, large amounts of in-use and discarded household products will continue to release these BFRs into the environment and TBBPA is still in high-volume use worldwide. Following the PBDE phase-out, many replacement FRs with known or suspected toxicity have been detected at increasing levels in household products and dust. Exposure of infants and children to FRs in baby products and house dust is of special concern. The continued use of FRs with known toxicities and introduction of untested replacement chemicals highlights the need to update flammability standards and modernize chemical policies to require disclosure and safety testing of FR chemicals prior to sale.


Flame retardants PBDEs HBCDs TBBPA BFRs Halogenated flame retardants Brominated flame retardants Replacement flame retardants House dust Polyurethane foam Foam furniture Plastics used in TVs and computers Electronics Food packaging Food contact materials Children’s products Carpets and textiles 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan D. Shaw
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jennifer H. Harris
    • 1
  • Michelle L. Berger
    • 1
  • Bikram Subedi
    • 3
  • Kurunthachalam Kannan
    • 3
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Marine StudiesMarine Environmental Research InstituteBlue HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Health SciencesSchool of Public Health, State University of New York at AlbanyAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.Wadsworth CenterNew York State Department of HealthAlbanyUSA

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