Polybrominated diphenyl ether, PBDE, flame retardants are now a world-wide pollution problem reaching even remote areas. They have been found to bioaccumulate and there are concerns over the health effects of exposure to PBDEs, they also have potential endocrine disrupting properties. They are lipophilic compounds so are easily removed from the aqueous environment and are predicted to sorb onto sediments and particulate matter or to fatty tissue, aiding their distribution throughout the environment. PBDEs are structurally similar to PCBs and DDT and, therefore, their chemical properties, persistence and distribution in the environment follow similar patterns. Concentrations of PBDEs found in environmental samples are now higher than those of PCBs. Evidence to date demonstrates that PBDEs are a growing problem in the environment and concern over their fate and effects is warranted. The manufacture of reactive and additive flame retardants is briefly discussed and their fate and behaviour in the environment is assessed. PBDE toxicology is reviewed and methods of analysis are evaluated.