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Flame retardants found on supermarket shelves

A new study has found flame retardant chemicals, called PBDEs, in foods taken straight from supermarket shelves in Dallas, Texas, suggesting that food may be a key source of the contamination measured in people around the world.

The report, which was published online Sept. 1 by Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society, revealed higher levels of flame retardants in the foods here than similar market studies from other countries.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used widely as flame-retardant additives in electronics and in polyurethane foam used for carpet padding, mattresses, chairs, sofas and other furniture have been detected in humans across the globe, but scientists are not certain how they are getting there.

Our paper is the first U.S. market basket food survey for brominated flame retardants, says the studys lead author Arnold Schecter, M.D., M.P.H., an environmental health expert at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas.

Schecter and his coworkers tested 32 food samples from three major supermarket chains in Dallas. We found PBDE contamination in all food containing animal fats, Schecter says, with the highest levels in fish, followed by meat and then dairy products. PBDEs are most soluble in fats, so they tend to accumulate in animal and human tissues.

Only two other similar market basket studies have been done in Spain and Japan and the U.S. levels were higher than both, according to the Texas study.

The Spanish study reported an upper level of 340 parts per trillion (ppt), while the most contaminated sample in the Texas study was a salmon filet with a concentration of more than 3,000 ppt. Likewise, the median concentration of PBDEs in meat from Dallas supermarkets was more than twice the maximum levels in meat from both the Spanish and Japanese surveys.


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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
202-872-6042
American Chemical Society
1-Sep-2004


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