​​​​Key message

The available data and evaluations show that the concentration of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is high in biota and sediment trough out the Baltic Sea. The status of the sum of BDE congeners (28, 47, 99, 100, 153 and 154) in fish, during the period up to 2015, shows that the threshold is exceeded at every monitoring site in the Baltic Sea resulting in all monitoring sites being classified as ‘not good status’ (Figure 1). This core indicator threshold value is the EU Environmental Quality Standard (EQS) 0.0085 µg kg-1 wet weight (ww). The threshold is considered to be very low.

Key message figure 1.png

Key message figure 1: Status assessment results based on the evaluation of the indicator Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). The assessment is carried out using Scale 4 HELCOM assessment units (defined in the HELCOM Monitoring and Assessment Strategy Annex 4). Click to enlarge.


Concentrations of single BDE congeners are declining, but the availability of long time series is limited in the Baltic Sea and concentrated in the western parts of the region.

The confidence of the indicator evaluation is high.

The indicator is applicable in the waters of all countries bordering the Baltic Sea.​​

Relevance of the core indicator

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are toxic and persistent substances that bioaccumulate in the marine foodweb. Increasing concentrations of PBDEs were detected in the environment in past decades as their use as commercial flame retardants increased. The use of most PBDE products have been banned in Europe during the last 10 years, and as a result decreasing concentrations are detected for some of the BDE congeners.


Policy relevance of the core indicator

 BSAP segment and objectivesMSFD descriptors and criteria

Primary link

  • Concentrations of hazardous substances close to natural levels

D8 Concentrations of contaminants

D8C1 Within coastal and territorial waters and beyond territorial waters the concentrations of contaminants do not exceed the threshold value

Secondary link

  • Fish safe to eat

D9 Contaminants in fish and seafood

D9C1 The level of contaminants in edible tissues (muscle, liver, roe, flesh or other soft parts, as appropriate) of seafood (including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms, seaweed and other marine plants) caught or harvested in the wild (exclusing fin-sih from mariculture) does not exceed the threshold value

​Other relevant legislation:  The Water Framework Directive and EC regulation No 850/2004 (and its following amendments) and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Cite this indicator

HELCOM (2017). Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). HELCOM core indicator report. Online. [Date Viewed], [Web link]. 

ISSN 2343-2543

Download full indicator report

HOLAS II component - Core indicator report – July 2017 (pdf)