Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are organobromine compounds that are used as flame retardant and can be found in several products including furnishings, airplanes, textiles and building materials. The problem with PBDEs is the ubiquitous usage in household products that provide low-levels of exposure. Those low-levels add up to significant problems. PBDEs can be inhaled and ingested without an individual even realizing it and then are stored in fat tissue, breast milk, blood... Individuals who are most at risk are those working in the manufacturing plants that use PBDEs in their products. Some of the risks from exposure include asthma, kidney and liver problems, hormone disruption, and brain development disruption in children. It 'aint pretty, folks.
So, here's the biggest problem. California is the worst in the United States for high levels of PBDEs, being ten times higher than other states and 200 times higher than Europe. A law authored by assemblyman Mark Leno would require all seating, bedding, and furniture to comply with requirements that eliminate brominated or chlorinated flame retardants and be adequately labeled by January 1, 2010. One can only hope that we will begin to move in the direction of eliminating toxic and unnecessary chemicals from all household products. Until it is required of companies it is imperative that you do your homework on products and buy organic. Companies such as EcoChoices, Furnature, Lee Industries, and Cisco Brothers all produce lines of organic furnishings that do not contain PBDEs. Until then, keep Fluffy off the couch and work toward eliminating those PBDEs from your life.