PBDEs are manufactured chemicals found in plastics used in a variety of consumer products (computer monitors, televisions, textiles, plastic foams, etc.) to make them difficult to burn. Because they are mixed into plastics rather than bound to them, they can leave the plastic and find their way into the environment. PBDEs are colorless to off-white solids and mixtures of up to 209 individual component chemicals called congeners.
Low levels of PBDEs are found in air, sediments, animals, and food. Analyses of blood, breast milk, and body fat indicate that most people are exposed to low levels of PBDEs. Exposure to higher levels of PBDEs can occur in workers who produce or manufacture PBDE-containing products. Exposure to PBDEs can also occur if you work in a confined place where plastics and foam products are recycled, and computers are repaired.
There is no definite information on health effects of PBDEs in people. Rats and mice that ate food with moderate amounts of PBDEs for a few days had effects on the thyroid gland. Those that ate smaller amounts for weeks or months had effects on the thyroid and the liver
. Preliminary evidence suggests that PBDEs may cause neurobehavioral alterations
and affect the immune system
in animals. Researchers do not know whether PBDEs can cause cancer
Two 2003 studies found that PBDEs are turning up in the breast milk of a high percentage of American women. The Environmental Working Group and researchers at the University of Texas-Houston found high levels of PBDEs in the breast milk of dozens of women across the USA.
In November 2003, Great Lakes Chemical Corporation of Indiana announced that it will stop production of two PBDEs by the end of 2004. A spokesperson for Great Lakes said the voluntary withdrawal is due to increased safety concerns. The chemicals, known as Penta and Octa, are widely-used flame retardants. Great Lakes is the only U.S. manufacturer of Penta.
See your doctor if you have experienced serious health problems because of exposure to PBDEs. In addition, it may be important to contact an attorney
who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits
within which you must commence suit.
Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
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