Friday, 13 November 2009: 11:05 AM
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely used as flame retardants in upholstered furniture and consumer electronics. Like other Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), PBDEs are ubiquitous in the environment, persist for years, bioaccumulate, pass from species to species through the food chain, and are susceptible to long-range atmospheric transport. These compounds are now being measured in human tissues, with some of the highest concentrations found in the breast milk of North American women. While recent studies show chronic exposure to PBDEs can affect the human thyroid system, research continues to determine their toxic properties. As part of its ongoing effort to characterize contaminants in the U.S. coastal waters and Great Lakes, NOAA's National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Program conducted the first nationwide assessment of PBDEs. The Mussel Watch Program screened for 38 PBDE congeners and a subset of 9 congeners (47, 99, 100, 153,154, 206, 207, 208, and 209) was utilized to determine source variability, identify areas with elevated concentrations, and compare PBDEs to legacy contaminants. Key findings were: PBDE concentrations and population were positively correlated, relative congener concentrations in industrialized areas were similar to levels reported in other studies, oyster and mussel tissue concentrations were higher than sediment concentrations, and congener sources were indistinguishable.
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