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Science Now (Ringed Seals) .pdf

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Title: http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2002/416/1
Author: sierra.rayne

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Flame Retardants Spreading Like Wildfire -- Parks 2002 (416): 1 -- sciencenow

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16 April 2002

Flame Retardants Spreading Like Wildfire
Chemicals that inhibit fires are ubiquitous in consumer products ranging from
auto interiors to office equipment. Now, a study has shown that these
compounds, suspected of disrupting the body's hormonal system, are
accumulating rapidly in animals in the Arctic, thousands of kilometers from
where they were used.
PCBs and dioxins and other
chemicals are known to
spread in the environment
and accumulate in the Arctic
fauna. But the new study, by
environmental chemists
Michael Ikonomou, Sierra
Rayne, and Richard Addison
of the Canadian Department
of Fisheries and Oceans in
Sidney, British Columbia, is
the first to measure levels of
polybrominated diphenyl
ethers (PBDEs), a group
whose use is required in
On the rise. As production of one class many products by strict U.S.
safety regulations. In a study
of PBDEs went up, so did levels in Arctic that will appear in the 1 May
issue of Environmental
Science and Technology, the
TECHNOL. 2002, 36, 1886-1892. (c) 2002 ACS
researchers report that in
ringed seals--the most common Arctic seal and the main prey of polar bears-PBDE concentrations increased nearly 10-fold between 1980 and 2000. The team
also looked at PBDEs in crabs, fish, and porpoises from the coastal waters of
British Columbia during the mid-1990s and found that all of the animal samples
they tested had statistically significant levels. "The bottom line," Ikonoumou
says, "is that no matter where we have looked, PBDEs are there, and the closer
you are to industrial and population centers, the higher the levels." For example,
he says, harbor porpoises of the British Columbia coast show 400 times higher
concentrations than Arctic ringed seals.
PBDEs are strongly suspected to disrupt endocrine system functions and, in
particular, to perturb thyroid hormones. Studies of PBDEs in human milk in



Flame Retardants Spreading Like Wildfire -- Parks 2002 (416): 1 -- sciencenow

Page 2 of 2

Sweden prompted officials there to ban the chemicals in 1996. The European
Union recently outlawed the most widely used commercial PBDE mixture, but
North American manufacturers continue to use tens of thousands of kilograms
annually--the exact quantities are industrial secrets.
"This is the first study to demonstrate that levels ... are increasing not just close
to centers of use, but in very remote sites, and at similar rates," says Derek Muir
of Environment Canada in Burlington, Ontario. Although it's not fully clear how
PBDEs make their way from consumer goods to the Arctic food chain, he says,
"we can see that these compounds can move quickly."
Related sites
Ikonomou's home page
More about PBDEs

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Copyright © 2002 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.



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