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Danger to Marine Life, Humans and Environment - PBDEs Are Everywhere

Polybrominated Diphenylethers (also known as PBDEs) have been used for decades as fire retardants.
While they may have served a useful purpose the chemicals are also hazardous to humans and to the environment - especially the ocean.
PBDEs do not break down easily and are found EVERYWHERE - in 85 per cent of commercial plastics, foam and textiles in the US.
They are in common household items such as computers, carpets, children's clothing, furniture, appliances, and insulation.
It is an insidious problem.
There are various classes and types of PBDEs and laws governing their use vary.
The European Union banned two classes of PBDEs in 2004.
In North America and Europe, there has been a gradual phasing out of PBDEs in different products.
However, there are still many new products being made with PBDEs and plenty of older items to cause great concerns for human health and the environment.
PBDEs and the ocean environment The presence of PBDEs in the environment can cause harm to plant and animal life.
A NOAA report released in 2009 found that PBDEs are found in ALL US coastal waters and the Great Lakes.
PBDEs make their way into the environment in different ways.
They can move into the environment from municipal/public waste or discarded consumer goods.
PBDEs can also dissipate into the air we breathe as dust particles.
Humans and animals can consume contaminated foods (especially meat and animal products with high fat content) and ingest PBDEs.
Pollution, food chain, marine animals Much of the earlier research concentrated on PBDEs and their direct health effects on human beings but now, it is very clear that the marine environment is very much affected.
They can accumulate in animals and make its way through the food chain.
As PBDEs concentrate in fatty tissue, and marine mammals tend to be at the top of their food chains, they tend to be affected the most.
Killer Whale carcases have been found with extremely high quantities of PBDEs.
High levels throughout its habitat have dropped the average life expectancy for a male orca more than in half, according to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research in Washington.
Meghan McKillop of the Vancouver Aquarium cetacean research group advises people to reduce the use of pesticides in a garden, go organic and local, and purchase PBDE-free products to help the future of Killer Whales.
High levels of PBDEs have been found in farmed fish - presumably contaminated by water and feed (also because farmed fish tend to have higher fat content).
Danger to humans PBDE exposure can be dangerous to humans and household pets.
Exposure could lead to chronic illnesses over time.
Unfortunately, many people that suffer from PBDE-exposure-related illnesses are not even aware of why they are sick.
Liver disease, thyroid conditions, neurobehavioral problems and reproductive disorders have been linked to PBDEs.
Pregnant women, foetuses, infants (PBDEs are passed through breast milk) and young children are particularly vulnerable.
There are certain steps that can be taken to reduce exposure to PBDEs in the home.
Keeping the household clean and free of dust is always a positive step.
Rooms in the home should be properly ventilated.
Getting rid of PBDEs It certainly sounds like a chemical you don't want to have in your home.
BUT it is very important to have a better idea of where the chemicals may be found in order to facilitate proper disposal.
Improperly disposed of hazards will come back to haunt you either directly or indirectly.
The best means is prevention.
It's best to avoid PCBEs in the first place and go for the safe alternatives.
See the fact sheet by the Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health for a list of companies not using Deca PBDEs.

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