Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of substances used as flame retardants in a wide variety of products. PBDEs are not manufactured in Canada but are imported into Canada as commercial mixtures and added to various intermediate and finished products, such as computer housings, household appliances, furniture, automotive/aircraft seating and interiors, and a variety of electrical and electronic components. Releases of PBDEs to the environment can occur during manufacturing and processing operations, throughout the service life of articles containing PBDEs, and when articles that contain PBDEs are disposed of. Studies indicate that PBDE levels in Canadian biota are rising, with increases in tissue concentrations evident over the last two decades. The highest levels in biota are associated with industrialized regions; however, the increasing incidence of PBDEs in Arctic biota provides evidence for long-range atmospheric transport of these compounds.

PBDEs were identified as a high priority for action in the Chemicals Management Plan, as announced by the Government in December 2006. Following the screening assessments of the Ministers of the Environment and Health, published on July 1, 2006, PBDEs have been identified as entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity (i.e., “toxic” as defined under paragraph 64(a) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999). The seven PBDE homologues included in these screening assessments are tetra-(CAS No. 40088-47-9), penta-(CAS No. 32534-81-9), hexa-(CAS No. 36483-60-0), hepta-(CAS No. 68928-80-3), octa-(CAS No. 32536-52-0), nona-(CAS No. 63936-56-1) and decaBDE-(CAS No. 1163-19-5).

In December 2006, Environment Canada and Health Canada published a Risk Management Strategy for PBDEs with the objective of reducing the concentration of PBDEs in the Canadian environment to the lowest level possible. The strategy uses a multi-instrument approach that combines regulatory and voluntary measures, the development of environmental quality guidelines, international co-operation and ongoing monitoring. 

Since the completion and publication of the Ecological Screening Assessment Report in 2006, a large amount of new information has been published respecting the accumulation of one form of PBDE, decaBDE, in biota and its potential transformation to persistent and bioaccumulative products. This information has been summarized and evaluated in the Ecological State of Science Report on decaBDE (draft published in March 2009, final in August 2010). The outcome of this review and comments received from the public provided justification for the development of additional regulatory controls for this form of PBDE. In August 2010, the Government published a Final Revised Risk Management Strategy for PBDEs. In comparison with the Revised Risk Management Strategy, published in March 2009, the final Strategy broadens controls on all forms of PBDEs, including DecaBDE, for both substances and products containing them. A consultation document respecting these control measures will be published in the near future.

The Government's Consultation Document on the Proposed Risk Management Measure for PBDEs is now available.  There is a 60-day public comment period on the Consultation Documents from February 5, 2013 to April 6, 2013.  Comments received will be considered during the development of the proposed risk management action.

For more information on this substance, please visit the Chemical Substances website.

Risk Assessment

Risk Management Strategy

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Risk Management Tool(s)

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Consultation (past and present) on the substance:

Other Information


Email address: GR-RM@ec.gc.ca
Fax number: (819) 994-0007

Chemicals Management Division
Environment Canada
Fontaine Building
200 Sacré Coeur Blvd.
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3