Just last week I told you about the sky-high levels of flame retardants, called PBDEs, found in a group of kids that were tested in California.
I mused at the end of that article that although the damage had already been done I hoped that at least this would be a case of “learning from our mistakes” when it comes to the approval and regulation of future flame retardants.
Looks like I spoke too soon.
It turns out that since PBDEs removal from the market in 2004 (because of their tendency to accumulate in animal tissue) a crop of new flame retardants has already popped up in their place.
New troubling flame retardants have replaced PBDEs
And according to researcher Steve Hinnefeld of Indiana University, these new versions… including hexabromocyclododecane, decabromodiphenylethane and Dechlorane Plus… are frighteningly similar to existing organic pollutants that have been tied to negative environmental and health effects in humans.
Want to know the worst part? These chemicals are largely unregulated and are at this very moment being used in everything from sofas to electronics and are building up in the places we live and work.
So not only haven’t we learned from our mistakes but we seem hell-bent on repeating them. In fact, a new study that appears this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology shines a little light on the path we seem to be dooming ourselves to travel again.
Researchers at Indiana University found PBDE levels in dogs that are five to 10 times higher than those that have been found in humans. (An earlier study had found levels 20 to 100 times higher in cats than in humans.)
Newer flame retardants already showing up in our pets
Since PDBEs have been linked to brain-development issues and attention, learning, and behavior problems in children as well as menstrual problems, low sperm counts and altered thyroid levels in adults, finding them at such high levels in our pets, with which, of course, we are in daily contact, is indeed shocking.
However, it’s the mention in the study of the newer flame retardants that were also detected that… while it seems to be getting little attention… is clearly one of the more important findings of this study. While the concentrations of these new chemicals were, of course, much lower than those of the PBDE levels it is only a matter of time before we see them increase.
And in light of the current lack of regulation surrounding this new crop of flame retardants, that increase may be seen sooner rather than later.
The bottom line is that if we continue to play with fire-retardant chemicals we’re all going to get burned.
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