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.

In July 2008, the Government of Canada published the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers Regulations to protect Canada's environment from the risks associated with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) by preventing their manufacture and restricting their use in Canada, thereby minimizing their release into the environment. Specifically, the Regulations prohibit the manufacture of PBDEs in Canada (tetraBDE, pentaBDE, hexaBDE, heptaBDE, octaBDE, nonaBDE and decaBDE congeners); and prohibit the use, sale, offer for sale and import of those PBDEs that meet the criteria for virtual elimination under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (tetraBDE, pentaBDE and hexaBDE congeners), as well as mixtures, polymers and resins containing these substances.

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.

The Government's Consultation Document on the Proposed Risk Management Measure for PBDEs was published on February 5, 2013 for a 60-day public comment period. Comments received were considered during the development of the proposed risk management action. The proposed risk management measure was that prohibitions would apply to the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, import and export of all PBDEs (tetraBDE, pentaBDE, hexaBDE, heptaBDE, octaBDE, nonaBDE and decaBDE) and any resin or polymer containing these substances. Therefore, the Government of Canada proposes to implement regulations to extend the existing PBDE prohibition to prohibit the use, sale, offer for sale, and import to heptaBDE, octaBDE, nonaBDE and decaBDE. As a result, the commercial mixture DecaBDE would be prohibited.

The proposed Regulations Amending the Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations, 2012 include controls on PBDEs and was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I on April 4, 2015. The proposed Amendments would expand the scope of the existing prohibition for PBDEs to cover all PBDE substances (including decaBDE) and products containing them, except manufactured items. The proposed Amendments are subject to a 75-day public comment period from April 4, 2015 to June 18, 2015. Comments received during this period will be considered for the final development of these Regulations. The Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers Regulations will be repealed once the proposed Amendments are finalized and come into force.

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

Risk Assessment

Risk Management Strategy

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Other Information


Chemicals Management Division
Environment Canada
351, St-Joseph Boulevard
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3

E-mail: ec.interdiction-prohibition.ec@ec.gc.ca