Canadian study on brominated flame retardants in house dust has substantial limitations

19th November

BSEF, the International Bromine Council, has carefully reviewed a recent publication by the Canadian national research facility, Canadian Light Source using a novel technology to “detect brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in house dust and is concerned at the “sensational nature of the press coverage” given the nature of the study and its very limited findings.

Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) make a critical contribution to the safety of products including electrical and electronic equipment in everyday life, protecting property and consumers from the risk of fire or injury.  Their use in materials and products contributes to their overall safety (reduced propensity of material for ignition). This not only means a contribution to saving lives, but also products and property, thus preventing waste of resources.

The study “Evaluating the use of synchrotron X-ray spectroscopy in investigating brominated flame retardants in indoor dust” by Peter Blanchard, Nicole Babichuk and Atanu Sarkar[1] was published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

Dr Kevin Bradley, Secretary General of BSEF noted a range of flaws with the study results but especially the fact that the study authors did not unequivocally identify any brominated flame retardants. “The method they deployed actually found that most of the dust contained magnesium bromide”, he noted. “Magnesium Bromide is not a POP and not a brominated flame retardant”, he added.

The authors concluded that the novel method they used has demonstrated that it can detect BFRs. The reality it could neither distinguish the three PBDE standards they used from one another, nor could it demonstrate that it could distinguish PBDEs from other compounds with bromine bound to an aromatic ring (both natural or synthetic). The authors also confirm that “it is likely that XANES cannot distinguish between different BFRs given the structural similarities between PBDEs and other BFRs”.

Summarising the study, Dr Bradley concluded: “this was an exploratory study using novel technology and a very limited sample size. More work is needed to validate the efficacy of the approach and results obtained need to be set against established thresholds of health concern to avoid raising unnecessary concerns”, he noted.


Further information


Further information can be obtained from Dr Kevin Bradley


About BSEF

BSEF – the International Bromine Council, is the global representative body for bromine producers and producers of bromine technologies. Originally founded in 1997, BSEF works to foster knowledge on the societal benefits of bromine and its applications. The members of BSEF are Albemarle Corporation, ICL Industrial Products, Lanxess and Tosoh. Further information:


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[1] Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2020) 27:42168–42174;