Published April 2, 2009 10:43 AM

Flame Retardant Chemicals Taint All U.S. Coastal Waters

WASHINGTON, DC, April 1, 2009 (ENS) - Chemicals used as flame retardants in consumer products since the 1970s now are found in all U.S. coastal waters and the Great Lakes, with elevated levels near urban and industrial centers, according to a federal government report issued today.

The nationwide survey found that New York's Hudson-Raritan Estuary had the highest overall concentrations of the chemicals, both in sediments and shellfish, but scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, in all U.S. coastal waters.

These toxic chemicals are used as flame retardants in building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, plastics, polyurethane foams and textiles.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances says that the concentrations of PBDEs in human blood, breast milk, and body fat indicate that most Americans are exposed to low levels of PBDEs.


A growing body of research points to evidence that exposure to PBDEs may produce detrimental health effects in animals, including humans.

Toxicological studies indicate that liver, thyroid and neurobehavioral development may be impaired by exposure to PBDEs and they have been found to impair the immune systems of animals. These chemicals are known to pass from mother to infant in breast milk.

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