Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether (C-pentaBDE)

C-PentaBDE has been used as a flame retardant additive in flexible polyurethane foam for furniture and upholstery and in electronic equipment. The main source in North America and Western Europe has been the C-PentaBDE incorporated in polyurethane foam, used in domestic and public furniture. This use is now mainly phased out.

Emissions of PentaBDE can also occur from recycling and dismantling activities such as dismantling of vehicles, buildings and constructions. Emissions can occur from electronic waste recycling plants and shredder plants. Potentially toxic products such as brominated dibenzo-p-dioxins and furans might be generated during incineration of articles containing C-PentaBDE.

Exposures and health effects

PentaBDE in soil and sediments enters the food chain and bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in the food webs, ending up in high levels in top predators.

Potential exposure to humans is through food, and through use of products and contact with indoor air and dust. PentaBDE transfers from mothers to embryos and lactating infants. PentaBDE is "stored mainly in body fat" and may stay in the body for years.

A 2007 study found that PBDE 47 (a tetraBDE) and PBDE 99 (a pentaBDE) had biomagnification factors in terrestrial carnivores and humans of 98, higher than any other industrial chemicals studied. In an investigation carried out by the WWF, "the brominated flame retardant chemical (PBDE 153), which is a component of the penta- and octa- brominated diphenyl ether flame retardant products" was found in all blood samples of 14 ministers of health and environment of 13 European Union countries.

The chemical has no proven health effects in humans; however, based on animal experiments, pentaBDE may have effects on "the liver, thyroid, and neurobehavioral development."

More information




Adapted from the Stockholm Convention Risk Profile for C-pentaBDE (pdf), and the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Toxicological Profile (pdf)

Hatfield Consultants The World Bank funded by the Canadian POPs Trust Fund through the      
Canadian International Development Agency
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