New Flame Retardants as Bad as Old Flame Retardants

Matt MacGillivray/CC BY 2.0

This burns. Flame retardants called PBDEs are being phased out due to health and environmental hazards. But chemicals used to replace them are building up in Great Lakes fish, and possibly messing with their DNA.

Back in 2004, the industry began replacing polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) used in products like furniture, electronics and clothing with new versions called Firemaster. As explained by Chemical & Engineering News, levels of the replacement chemicals are now rising rapidly in Great Lakes fish, doubling every 13 to 19 months.

Researchers from Indiana University recently analyzed more than 500 air samples on both sides of the Great Lakes, in the U.S. and Canada.

Jim D./CC BY 2.0

They found that the Firemaster compounds --- better known as TBB and TBPH --- also have started to accumulate in the environment. Levels of the compounds are doubling every 13 months in fish from Chicago and Cleveland and every 19 months in more rural sites, including Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes (shown above, and named this year as the 'Most Beautiful Place in America').

Thanks a lot. Sure, flame retardants have saved the lives of humans. But can we please find something that doesn't spread from our living room to our drinking water (yes, that's where it comes from), moving through the air to damage fish? For now, the research just suggests that the compounds can damage fish DNA by building up to the levels like those found in the study. Who's feeling optimistic?

More on Fish and Flame Retardants
High Levels of Flame Retardants Found in Dogs
Do We Need Flame Retardants In Our Furniture and Electronics?
Invasive? Bloody Red Shrimp Are Supper for Great Lakes Fish

Tags: Chemicals | Fish | Great Lakes


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