Polybrominated diphenylethers or PBDE
 
Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) are members of a broader class of brominated chemicals used as flame retardants; these are called brominated flame retardants, or BFRs. There are dozens of congeners, or varieties of the basic chemical type, of PBDEs.
 
What are the concerns associated with PBDEs?

Although use of flame retardants saves lives and property, there have been unintended consequences. There is growing evidence that PBDEs persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms, as well as toxicological testing that indicates these chemicals may cause liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity. Environmental monitoring programs in Europe, Asia, North America, and the Arctic have found traces of several PBDEs in human breast milk, fish, aquatic birds, and elsewhere in the environment. Particular congeners, tetra- to hexabrominated diphenyl ethers, are the forms most frequently detected in wildlife and humans. The mechanisms or pathways through which PBDEs get into the environment and humans are not known yet, but could include releases from manufacturing or processing of the chemicals into products like plastics or textiles, aging and wear of the end consumer products, and direct exposure during use (e.g., from furniture).

Visit the EPA's PBDE web page for more information http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pbde/#pbdes