New Research Shows Human Exposures to Common Flame Retardants Well Below Guidance Limits

A new research study released by scientists from Health Canada and Summit Toxicology LLP using large scale biomonitoring data showed the low levels of human exposure to PBDE 99 and HBCD are well below current guidance values used by Canadian and other government regulatory bodies [1] . The results were recently published in Toxicology Letters: Screening of population level biomonitoring data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey in a risk-based context[2] . This confirms again the findings of similar independent, scientific approaches that have been used to measure the risk of these flame retardant to the general population.

The study focused on the Canadian Health Measures Survey, which collects biomonitoring data amongst thousands of Canadians to help inform regulatory approaches to the risk assessments and risk management of various chemical substances. The Canadian Health Measures Survey collects key information by means of direct physical measurements such as blood pressure, height, weight and physical fitness. In addition, the survey collects blood and urine samples to test for chronic and infectious diseases, nutrition and chemical exposure markers. The authors examined data from 2007-2011 weighted accordingly using methodology established by Statistics Canada. These data allow agencies, lawmakers and the public to have a better understanding of what biomonitoring level actually means.

For the flame retardants included in the study, (three HBCD isomers and PDBE99), data indicates that concentrations in the Canadian population are well below the exposure thresholds commonly used by Canadian and US regulatory agencies. This reinforces similar findings in the United States which were based on recent NHANES biomonitoring data[3].

BSEF is an international bromine production organization established in 1997.  Its members are committed to science and independent evaluation on brominated flame retardants and bromine. BSEF supports all efforts to inform regulators and the general public on the results of this science, and to represent the bromine industry on issues of environmental and human health. The flame retardant substances made by BSEF companies help keep society safer by reducing the flammability of materials used in the places and products all around us.

For any additional information or enquiries, please contact:

Mayssa Badr, BSEF Secretariat
Tel.: +32 (0)2 743 66 98


[1] PBDE 99 was a major component in the legacy substance historically used to reduce the flammability of flexible PU foam in furniture. HBCD isomers (hexabromocyclododecane) are commonly used in thermal insulation for buildings.

[3] Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1205740