The birds' eggs contained some of the highest levels of BDEs (brominated diphenyl ethers) ever found in any kind of wildlife, and this was the first time that the deca formulation of BDE has been found in a living organism. The findings add to mounting concern among some scientists that deca-BDE the world's most widely used brominated flame-retardant is not as harmless as previously believed.
The report, which examined three peregrine falcon populations in Sweden two in the wild and one in captivity appears in the current edition (Jan. 1) of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Aerial predators that can power-dive on their prey at speeds up to 200 mph, peregrine falcons approached the brink of extinction after World War II. Their decline was blamed mostly on organochlorine pesticides like DDT, which were linked to thin-shelled eggs that broke during incubation.
While BDEs do not produce the eggshell thinning associated with DDT, there has been some evidence of neurobehavioral problems from exposure to the chemicals in laboratory animals, a potential concern for a bird that relies on surprising its prey and diving on it. Two BDE forms the penta and octa versions will be banned in member states of the European Union beginning later this year, and the main U.S. manufacturer of the products recently announced its plans to phase out production of penta- and octa-BDEs as part of a voluntary agreement with the U.S. EPA.