Jose Mercury News
11 July 2003
fish show rising levels of fire retardant, study says
By Jamie Francisco
the study by Environmental Working Group
reeled in from Bay Area waters displayed alarming levels of a toxic
flame retardant chemical used in items ranging from carpets to cushions
to computers, according to a new study.
1997, levels of toxic PBDEs have doubled in halibut and tripled
in striped bass -- the two fish favored by Bay Area anglers -- according
to the study, released this week by the non-profit Environmental
also have discovered rising levels of the chemical -- polybrominated
diphenyl ether -- in the breast tissue, breast milk and blood of
Bay Area women.
believe that PBDEs can cause thyroid problems and may harm brain
developments in children.
study may bolster the ongoing effort by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan,
D-Oakland, who has written a bill designed to ban two types of PBDE
bill, already approved by the Assembly, is scheduled to go before
the Senate next week. The two PBDEs, penta and octa, have been banned
by the European Union, but no regulations for these chemicals exist
in the United States.
we continue to do this, our children won't have a chance to develop
fully and do well in school,'' Chan said.
Greg Aghazarian, R-Turlock, however, voted against the bill for
the same reason Chan proposed it -- to protect children.
and other supporters of PBDEs warn that banning it may mean prohibiting
a chemical that has been highly effective in preventing fires. While
health concerns must be taken into account, PBDE provides protection
saves lives,'' Aghazarian said. ``It's the best one known to man.
We can't jeopardize the safety and health for our children.''
Environmental Protection Agency has not set safety level standards
for PBDEs. The level found in halibut tissue in the study was 12.6
parts per billion, 16.6 in striped bass. Scientific studies on laboratory
rats showed newborn mice displayed brain damage at concentrations
of four parts per billion in brain tissue, according to the report.
However, it's not known what level would be harmful to humans.
Lunder, lead author of the report, said its purpose was to urge
furniture and electronics manufacturers to create other products
that would eliminate the need for PBDEs.
can we be against preventing fires? We're not,'' Lunder said. ``But
we don't have to poison the bay or our bodies for fire safety.''
report presented data collected from September to November 2002.
Last fall, researchers collected 22 fish from fishermen on private
and charter boats around South San Francisco and San Pablo Bay.
Researchers also gathered leopard shark, jacksmelt, surfperch and
white croaker fish, but not enough for a valid study.
were also gathered from fishermen at public piers around the Bay
Area. Results were analyzed by the state Department of Toxic Substance
Control's Hazardous Materials Lab in Berkeley.
a growing concern not only because it's building up in the fish,
but because it's building up in the rest of the planet,'' said Ted
Smith, executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.