Flame-Retardant Chemical Found in All U.S. Coastal Waters
April 29, 2009
Beginning in the 1970s, PBDEs were widely used as flame retardants in building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, plastics, polyurethane foams, textiles, and other consumer goods (see
EBN). Certain PBDEs have been banned in many European and Asian countries (and largely phased out voluntarily in the U.S.) due to mounting evidence that exposure to PBDEs can lead to impaired thyroid, liver, and neurobehavioral development.
PBDEs are introduced into the ecosystem through runoff from industrial sites, municipal incineration, sewage outflows, and leaching from aging or discarded consumer products. As recently as 1996, the presence of PBDEs in coastal waters was limited to heavily industrial areas, but the chemical is now found even in remote areas, providing evidence that PBDEs may also be transported atmospherically.