Health consequences of exposure to brominated flame retardants: a systematic review

Chemosphere. 2014 Jul:106:1-19. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.12.064. Epub 2014 Feb 11.


Background: Brominated flame retardants (BFRs), are chemicals widely used in consumer products including electronics, vehicles, plastics and textiles to reduce flammability. Experimental animal studies have confirmed that these compounds may interfere with thyroid hormone homeostasis and neurodevelopment but to date health effects in humans have not been systematically examined.

Objectives: To conduct a systematic review of studies on the health impacts of exposure to BFRs in humans, with a particular focus on children.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted using the MEDLINE and EMBASE electronic databases up to 1 February 2012. Published cohort, cross-sectional, and case-control studies exploring the relationship between BFR exposure and various health outcomes were included.

Results: In total, 36 epidemiological studies meeting the pre-determined inclusion criteria were included. Plausible outcomes associated with BFR exposure include diabetes, neurobehavioral and developmental disorders, cancer, reproductive health effects and alteration in thyroid function. Evidence for a causal relationship between exposure to BFRs and health outcomes was evaluated within the Bradford Hill framework.

Conclusion: Although there is suggestive evidence that exposure to BFRs is harmful to health, further epidemiological investigations particularly among children, and long-term monitoring and surveillance of chemical impacts on humans are required to confirm these relationships.

Keywords: Brominated flame retardants; Children; Exposure; Health; Human.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Symptoms / chemically induced
  • Behavioral Symptoms / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / chemically induced
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Flame Retardants / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated / poisoning*


  • Flame Retardants
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated