ENVIRONMENTAL WATCH: flame-retardant chemicals in coastal waters

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A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are contaminating U.S. coastal waters at greater levels than a decade ago.

Levels of contamination are highest around urban areas such as New York and Los Angeles, but the chemicals also are present in remote and relatively pristine areas, including the coasts of Maine and Alaska, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald.

In fact, Maine was among the first states to restrict the sale of consumer products containing PDBEs because the chemicals have shown up in sediment or shellfish in all U.S. coastal waters, including mussels collected along the Maine coast, according to the report.

PDBEs are long-lasting, toxic man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1970s as flame retardants in a variety of consumer products, including building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, plastics, polyurethane foams and textiles, the newspaper reports. Laboratory tests have shown the chemicals to be toxic to animals.

Click here for NOAA's report.

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