Breast Health Challenge Tip #29

Vacuum or damp mop at least one room in your house today to remove dust.


Are you ready to tackle the dustballs? Did you know that your dust contains high amounts of brominated fire retardants (also known as PBDEs), which mimic the hormone estrogen and are implicated in breast cancer? PBDEs are commonly used in building materials, electronics, plastics, polyurethane foams, carpets, drapes, mattresses, pyjamas and textiles.

How Widespread are They?

PBDEs are one of the most predominant environmental chemicals linked to breast cancer. They have been found in human breast milk, human blood, food, remote rural air, wild fish, and in the sewage sludge being applied as fertilizer on food crops across the U.S.

Bromine is a highly-reactive chemical element, a halogen in the same class as chlorine and iodine. Worldwide, eight chemical corporations manufacture about 300 million pounds of brominated fire retardants each year, of which about 80 million pounds are members of the class known as polybromo diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. PBDEs are everywhere. The Great Lakes are one of the most PBDE-contaminated bodies of water in the world, with Lake Michigan being the worst.

PBDEs leach into the environment from the plastics in appliances, TVs and computers, foam in upholstery, and the fabrics of carpets and draperies. Many hard styrene plastics and many foam padding materials are 5% to 30% PBDE by weight. Like organochlorines, PBDEs persist for years in the environment, accumulate in the food chain and concentrate in fatty tissues.

What Damage Do They Cause?

We accumulate PBDEs from food and the environment in our fat cells. Because breast tissue is largely composed of fat cells, they collect in our breasts. Some PBDEs can cause ovarian and breast cancer, interfere with hormones, and disrupt normal growth and development in laboratory animals. Brominated compounds can interfere with thyroid hormones, which are critical for the proper development of the brain and central nervous system in animals and humans. They can cause abnormal behaviour in animal studies and can be toxic to the liver and kidneys.

Baby mice exposed to PBDEs show permanent behavioural and memory problems, which worsen with age.

PBDEs are similar in chemical form, and in many of their actions, to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which are among the most dangerous and persistent chemicals ever made.

Danger to Children and Pets

The dust on your floor may contain a high concentration of PBDEs, if your home contains foam in furniture or mattresses, electronic equipment, drapes and carpets. Children and pets, because of their smaller body size and proximity to the floor, accumulate higher amounts of brominated fire retardants in their bodies.

Within 10 to 15 years PBDEs will have surpassed PCBs as an environmental hazard. Breast milk studies indicate that the danger to infants and children is rapidly rising.

What Can We Do to Protect Ourselves?

There are several things we can do to protect ourselves form the damaging effects of brominated fire retardants:

  1. Demand regulations to either ban or govern the manufacture, use, and disposal of PBDEs.
  2. Do not buy foam mattresses or furniture – choose natural latex, wood, buckwheat, kapok, cotton or other substances, and request that no fire retardants are used.
  3. Petition the makers of electronic equipment to cease using PBDEs.
  4. Use wooden blinds rather than cloth curtains – or find textiles with no fire retardants added
  5. Choose hardwood floors with natural fiber area rugs rather than carpets, which accumulate fire retardants in dust.
  6. Vacuum floors daily.
  7. Wash new pyjamas several times before wearing them, or make sure no fire retardants have been added to the fabric.
  8. Be a vegan, avoiding fish and meat consumption, to decrease your body burden of fire retardants.
  9. Sweat daily, using exercise or sauna, to eliminate fire retardants from your fat cells.


Risk assessment of PBDEs and PAHs in house dust in Kocaeli, Turkey: levels and sources.

Effects of decabrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE-209) in regulation of growth and apoptosis of breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer cells.

Adipose levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and risk of breast cancer.

Toxic effects of brominated flame retardants in man and in wildlife.

Take the Breast Health Challenge!

Get on your steed and attack the dustballs and take a photo or make a video of you afterwards, and post on your Facebook page, Youtube or Instagram with the hashtag #breasthealthchallenge between Oct 1-31. Challenge your friends to do the same.

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