PDBE’s are commonly used flame-retardants found in everything from electronics, automobiles and furniture. There are 3 main forms in use today, deca-, penta-, and octa-BDE’s each with drawbacks and potential toxic side-effects. Research has suggested that the deca-BDE was the least toxic as the other two have been implicated in fetal development disruption although the EPA considers deca-BDE a possible human carcinogen.
In a study that will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers have found that certain forms of bacteria like Sulfurospirillum multivoranscan convert deca-BDE into a seven- or eight-bromine form which then imparts a greater toxicity to the chemical. Also, other bacteria can convert the newly formed chemical down even further which can make them even more toxic. Considering that PDE’s are ubiquitous in the environment, this is very disturbing news.