According to new research released by the Environmental Science & Technology, compounds released from widely used PBDE flame retardants can generate toxic dioxins when exposed to wastewater treatment. The combination of the dioxins and the compounds that produce them, hydroxylated PBDEs (OH-PBDEs), are turning up all along the U.S. Coastal waters and causing a negative impact on humans and aquatic creatures such as predatory fish and seals.
What Exactly are PBDEs?
PBDEs are a class of widely used brominated fire retardants that can be found in thousands of common consumer products. PBDEs have drawn the attention of environmentalists and scientists due to the growing evidence of its dangerous toxic effects. The danger of using PBDEs in certain products occurs in the manufacturing process. During the process they are mixed directly into the foam or plastic product instead of being chemically bound to the product thus increasing the chances they will leak out into the human environment.
Statistics show that 50 percent of the PBDEs that are used today worldwide are used in America.
Everyday Household Products That Contain PBDEs
* Plastics: Computers, televisions, hair dryers, curling irons, copy machines, fax machines, printers, coffee makers, plastic automotive parts, lighting panels, PVC wire and cables, electrical connectors, fuses, lamp sockets, smoke detectors
* Textiles: Back coatings and impregnation of home and office furniture, industrial drapes, carpets, automotive seating, aircraft and train seating
* Plyurethane foam: Home and office furniture, automobile, bus, plane and train seating, sound insulation panels, wood packaging materials
* Rubber: Conveyor belts, foamed pipes for insulation, rubber cables
* Paints and Lacquers: Marine and industry protective lacquers and paints
How Do PBDEs Enter Your Body?
The most common ways PBDEs make their way into the human body are through exposure to contaminated food, house dust and air.
Fish is considered to have the highest level of PBDEs. In the U.S. and Canada the levels of PBDEs from household dust, sewage sludge, wildlife and the environment was found to be 10 times higher than other industrialized nations. These findings strongly confirm that inhalation and ingestion of PBDEs from the environment are the main routes of exposure for those living in North America.
Researchers have also found an increasing amount of PBDEs in breast milk. Statistics showed that there was a 60-fold increase in the levels of PBDEs in breast milk between the years 1972-1997. In other words, the levels of PBDEs in breast milk are doubling every five years!
Animal studies revealed that it doesn’t take a whole lot of PBDEs during infancy to cause significant neurological damage and fetal malformation.
PBDEs have been linked to several other adverse health effects including:
*Thyroid hormone disruption
*Permanent learning and memory disruption
*Delayed puberty onset
*Decreased sperm count
Biomonitoring Needed in the U.S. for Accumulation of Chemicals in Humans
Currently the U.S. system for biomonitoring of chemical buildup in humans is lacking, particularly in times where industries are releasing millions of tons of chemicals into the environment and increasing exposure to humans. A solid biomonitoring system would serve as an early warning system to detect excess chemical buildup in human bodies, track trends, and take action with set regulation guidelines when needed.
In order to cut down on the contamination of U.S. waters, researchers recommend changing the way PBDE-containing goods are disposed of as a way to decrease the amount landing in the consumer environment. Coming up with best practice guidelines for waste disposal could greatly alter future contamination levels along the U.S. shoreline for the better.
More information at the National Resources Defense Council