We knew that the effect of flame retardants on the environment was bad, but were shocked to hear that they can still be found in tree bark, even 10 years after they have been phased out!
“Many halogenated flame retardants are structurally related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and are also environmentally persistent and bioaccumulative. Because of their persistence, halogenated flame retardants have become distributed around the globe and are found at remote places where they have never been used. Furthermore, even if they are banned and no longer manufactured, chemicals already released to the environment continue to persist and spread. Though a majority of PBDEs were manufactured and used in North America, a 2013 study found PBDEs in tree bark at far-flung locations in Nepal and Tasmania, almost 10 years after their phase-out.
Size of circle is proportionate to the concentration of total PBDEs (ng/ g of lipid weight) found in tree bark at the indicated location (from data in Salamova 2013).
“Halogenated flame retardants possess many of the same chemical properties as PCBs. We can learn from the PCB experience that once released into the environment, halogenated flame retardants will present very challenging and expensive cleanup measures.”
–Dick Luthy, Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University”