Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Danielle Brim

First Page



The differing approaches used in the United States and the European Union to regulate toxic chemicals have been highlighted by debates about a group of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. PBDEs act as flame-retardants and are added to consumer products to increase their safety. Questions about the continued use of PBDEs have been raised, however, because of concerns that PBDEs may be dangerous to human health and the environment. The European Union has decided to ban two types of PBDEs, while the United States has not issued similar restrictions. In this Note, the Author argues that neither decision is inherently correct or incorrect because deciding how much risk is acceptable is a policy decision. Consequently, the "right" decision is the one that reflects the will of the people who will benefit from, or bear the costs of, acting now versus waiting until later. This Note argues, however, that the United States should align its policy with that of the international community by taking a more precautionary approach because PBDEs used in the United States cause harm outside its borders.