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E-M:/ PBDE fire retardants accumulating rapidly in breast milk-AP story

Enviro-Mich message from Tracey Easthope <tracey@ecocenter.org>

Today's AP story again raises concerns about PBDE's accumulating in all
of us.  The article excerpted below suggests that the PBDE that is appearing
most prominently in breast milk is made by a company called
Great Lakes Chemical.
New concerns have been raised about PBDE's ability to disrupt thyroid
function, and thus possibly disrupt development in developing organisms.

These emerging concerns led the Michigan Environmental Council and 
member groups Lone Tree Council, Ecology Center, and Clean Water 
Action to ask DEQ to issue a rule requiring industries that use PBDEs 
to report this use to the state under a 30-year-old program called 
the Critical Materials Register. The program was created in 1970 to 
help Michigan officials track down users of mercury and other 
hazardous chemicals.
We are still waiting for a response.

January 30, 2002

Flame Retardant in Furniture Causes Concern

A chemical flame retardant used in foam furniture padding is
accumulating so rapidly in the breast milk of nursing mothers that 
and some scientists are expressing concern, and Europe has moved to ban one
form of it.

Little is known about the toxic nature of the chemical, polybrominated
diphenyl ether, commonly known as PBDE. Early studies show it poses
some of the same dangers as PCB's and DDT, two chemicals that were banned in
the United States for their detrimental health effects.

One form of PBDE will be banned next year in Europe, where new
chemical agents must be proved safe before they can be used. United States law
requires proof of harm or risk before a chemical is banned.

The chemical industry argues that more research is needed before
banning something that protects lives. Producers of PBDE say there is no
evidence that it will ever reach harmful levels.


Like PCB's and DDT, PBDE is a persistent organic pollutant, meaning it
can remain in the environment for years without breaking down. Some of
these pollutants have such an affinity for fat that they build up in the
bodies of humans and other animals from before birth until death.


Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense
Council, said: "There is an enormous need to act quickly when there is
a problem with a chemical that is not only toxic but is persistent and

Industry uses several forms of PBDE to decrease the flammability of
various plastics. Only one form used mostly in polyurethane foam furniture
padding has been found in the environment and breast milk. Environmental
Protection Agency records show that Great Lakes Chemical is the only domestic
manufacturer of that form of PBDE.


Professor Hale has found PBDE's virtually everywhere he has looked; in
a small river along the North Carolina-Virginia border, he found fish
with the highest levels of PBDE ever recorded in an animal. He has also
collected sewage sludge samples from four states; each sample has high
concentrations of PBDE.

In 1998, Swedish scientists reported that levels of PBDE in breast milk
had increased 40-fold since 1972.

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