Flame retardants are found to bioaccumulate in bird eggs

Photo credit: Robert Benner Sr. Photo credit: Robert Benner Sr.

Flame retardants, particularly some forms of Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been shown to accumulate in the environment. These substances, which are very toxic, have been found in animal tissues including fish, sea mammals and bird eggs as well as dust and sediments. As a result, some forms of PBDEs have been banned or are being phased out in Europe and North America and alternative chemical flame retardants known as dechloranes are being developed to replace them. While ideally new chemical alternatives will be more environmentally friendly than PBDEs, a recent study in the journal Environment International found evidence of both PBDEs and dechlorane flame retardants in the eggs of 14 different bird species, some of which are already threatened. Researchers found evidence that not only were dechlorane flame retardants bioaccumulating in the bird eggs, but that their levels were even higher than PBDE levels. High dechlorane levels are likely being observed because they are being used more commonly as restrictions on PBDEs are tightened. The authors concluded, “These results indicate the need for further studies focused on the ecological impact of these emerging contaminants. More attention should be paid to dechloranes since they show similar environmental behavior as PBDEs.”