Hot off the presses, a four- part expose by the Chicago Tribune “Playing With Fire” documents the collusion, deception and distorted science of the chemical industry in promoting neuro toxic brominated flame retardants. Dr. Susan Shaw first published on the dangers of PBDEs, the most notorious of the fire retardants, in 2007 when she detected it in northwest Atlantic harbor seals and their prey fish. Later that year this research helped persuade the Maine legislature to ban Deca PBDE, making the state the second to do so and prompting reforms nation wide.
The chemical industry responded to environmental concerns by introducing replacement fire-retardants described as eco-friendly. According to the newspaper articles, the replacement product Firemaster 550, far from being biodegradable and harmless, persists in the environment because its chemicals are similar in structure to its predecessors. Already the two principal chemicals in Firemaster 550, TBB and TBPH, are being detected in baby harbor seals from Maine to New York, according to Dr. Shaw’s latest research to be published this summer.
“Seals are a sentinel species, biologically similar to humans and there is every likelihood that these dangerous new fire-retarding compounds are accumulating in our bodies just as the earlier generation of brominated fire-retardants has”, explained Dr. Shaw
These fire-retardants are widely used in furniture and also baby products containing polyurethane foam. TBPH is similar to a phthalate that is banned in children’s products and which California lists as a carcinogen and developmental toxin.
Links to the Chicago Tribune's Playing with Fire (May 6,8,9,10) series:
Part 1: Torching the Truth
Part 2: 'Our fire service friends'
Part 3: 'Flat-out deceptive'
Part 4: 'Why do we not learn?'
“When we start seeing these chemicals in the marine food chain we are really in trouble. We cannot continue to treat the oceans as a waste disposal system for the planet”, says Dr. Shaw.
MERI’s harbor seal studies are ongoing. The Seals As Sentinels project is entering its thirteenth year and will continue to generate important data with implications for human and environmental health. If you would like to support this research, please contact us at email@example.com or call 207-374-2135.