The big scare in commercial construction is a new Senate House Bill 596 which makes certain insulation with the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) illegal to install if you’re in Oregon. I think this bill caught everyone off guard.

PBDEs are used in fireproofing as a flame-retardant. However, they are in LOTs of other things including; foam products, plastics, couches, etc.

The issue is that this chemical(s) is a bioaccumulator. And this description is telling. It accumulates in your body. Health studies are inconclusive, and forthcoming, but it could be linked to brain development, memory, learning, and lowering thyroid hormone levels.  Most all symptoms are long term, but as mentioned before, it accumulates.

For more information about PBDE you can start at the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. The Oregon Health Authority is enforcing the rule. The Fact Sheet is here dated January 28, 2011.

I am cautious about saying if this is a real-public health issue, or just a passing scare. Honestly I don’t know. I haven’t seen a lot of information about the health effects from unbiased sources (please point me in if you have).  Regardless, this is in some brands of commercial insulation, and if you’re in Oregon, you should not install it.