Polybrominated biphenyls and diphenylethers

J. de Boer, K. de Boer, J.P. Boon

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


    Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), also called brominated diphenyl oxides, are produced and used as flame retardants. There are theoretically 209 different congeners of both PBBs and PBDEs. These congeners have specific chemical and physical properties, which lead to different biological and toxicological effects. Most studies have been based on commercial mixtures of brominated flame retardants, which complicates the pursuit of unambiguous data and insights. Only adequate quantification of individual congeners will allow comparative environmental and toxicological studies.

    Most of the PBB and PBDE congeners found in commercial flame retardants are persistent, lipophilic and bioaccumulating, which represents a potential threat to both human and environmental life. The PBDE concentrations in environmental samples are generally higher than those of the PBBs, which seems to be related to the production figures of these compounds. The PBB production was strongly reduced after an accident in which PBBs were mixed with cattle feed. In contrast with that the PBDE production is increasing. Nowadays, most of the PBDE production is based on decaBDE.However, environmental patterns mainly consist of tetra and penta BDEs. Possibly, lower brominated mixtures have been used in higher quantities than is known or degradation of the relatively instable deca BDE may take place, but other explanations cannot be excluded. The acute toxicity of PBBs and PBDEs is relatively low, but long term effects on the balance of endocrine systems of animals and humans seem to pose the most serious risk. Because of the potential toxic effects found, a substitution of these flame retardants by environmentally friendly alternatives may be considered.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Environmental Chemistry, Vol. 3
    Subtitle of host publicationPart K New Types of Persistent Halogenated Compounds
    EditorsO. Hutzinger, J. Paasivirta
    Place of PublicationBerlin
    PublisherSpringer Verlag
    ISBN (Electronic)9783540489153
    ISBN (Print)9783540658382
    Publication statusPublished - 2000

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