Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


Manchester-Neesvig, JB, K Valters and WC Sonzogni. 2001. Comparison of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Lake Michigan Salmonids. Environmental Science and Technology 35:1072-1077.

quick background on PBDEs

Manchester-Neesvig et al. report that PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ether) contamination is widespread in salmon from Lake Michigan. Their findings add to growing evidence that these persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals have become a global toxic hazard.

What did they do?
The authors collected 21 salmon of two distinct species (Coho and Chinook) from two separate tributaries of Lake Michigan. They then assayed PCB and PBDE levels using gas chromatography.

What did they find?
All salmon had detectable levels of PBDEs. Total PBDE levels (the sum of all congeners) averaged 80.1 ng/g of wet weight (1 ng/g is equivalent to 1 part per billion. Measuring only the lipid portion of the sample, they found 2440 ng/g. The concentration of PBDEs was correlated with the size of the fish: the bigger the fish, the more PBDEs per unit weight. Because salmon age one of the main determinants of salmon size, this indicates (1) that the fish accumulate PBDEs over a long time period, not in acute bouts, and (2) that PBDEs have been in Lake Michigan for many years.

The relative abundance of different PBDE congeners resembled the pattern of PBDE congeners in Bromkal 70-5DE, a commercial PBDE flame retardant. This suggests that Bromkal 70-5DE is an important source of the PBDEs in Lake Michigan.




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