Northeastern US Forests Inadvertently Made Fire Resistant

The headline is a sick attempt at humor; but, the story is truly amazing. You really can't make stuff like this up.

A study by Indiana University researchers found the chlorinated flame retardant Dechlorane Plus in the bark of trees across the northeastern United States, with by far the highest concentrations measured near the Niagara Falls, N.Y., factory where this chemical is produced.

The study, by Xinghua Qui and Ronald A. Hites of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, was published online last week by the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Hites is a Distinguished Professor and director of the Environmental Science Research Center at SPEA; Qui is a postdoctoral research scientist.

Hites said the study demonstrates that tree bark can be used as nature's own passive sampling device for detecting the presence and relative concentrations of chemicals in the air. Rough, porous and high in lipids, tree bark soaks up airborne gases and particles, then keeps them protected from the elements.

The study, "Dechlorane Plus and Other Flame Retardants in Tree Bark from the Northeastern United States," provides the first data on the prevalence of the chemical in the atmosphere outside of the Great Lakes area. It identifies the epicenter of DP concentrations as being near the factory where the chemical is produced by OxyChem (Occidental Petroleum Corp.). Concentrations in tree bark within a few miles of the factory were several thousand times higher than those found in bark at more distant sampling sites, including Indiana, Virginia and Maryland.

We humans have lipids in and under our skin, just like tree bark? See the point?

Via::University of Indiana, "The proof is in the tree bark". Image credit::"Xinghua Qui collects a tree bark sample near Bloomington"