Monday, December 12, 2011

Levels of new flame retardants on the rise

Researchers found that new flame retardant levels are rising.
They replace one type of chemical with another, but the health effects of new flame retardants have become a new topic of concern.

Originally created to replace older chemicals that were believed to be a threat to the environment, the new flame retardants are now widespread in the air near the Great Lakes, a new report shows.

Back in the 1970s, manufacturers started using old flame retardant chemicals in their products (including upholstered furniture, electronics, clothing, mattresses).

The problem with those flame retardants was their volatility. The polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) easily off-gas into the ambient air where they can become an environmental threat.

In order to replace PBDEs, the industry introduced new formulations  that contain 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) and bis(2-ethylhexyl)-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH). But these chemicals could also have environmental risks: Research has suggested that the compounds can build up in fish and damage their DNA.

As it turns out, these new flame retardants can be found in the air in the Great Lakes region. Researchers monitored the air for levels of TBB and TBPH and collected samples between 2008 and 2010.

They detected TBB and TBPH in the vast majority of samples from Chicago and Cleveland, where levels of the compounds doubled approximately every 13 months.

It wasn’t only an urban phenomenon, as they also found the compounds in air samples from rural sites (those levels doubled every 19 months).

More research is needed into the effects of these new flame retardants on the environment.

Source: Chemical & Engineering News 

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