Chemicals used as flame retardants are present as environmental pollutants at locations around the globe, including remote sites in Indonesia, Nepal and Tasmania, according to a study by researchers from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
The study, published this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, makes use of a novel but highly effective sampling technique: measuring concentrations of the chemicals in the bark of trees, which absorbs compounds in both vapor and particle phases.
"These findings illustrate further that flame retardants are ubiquitous pollutants and are found all around the world, not only in biota and humans but also in plants," said Amina Salamova, a research associate in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington and co-author of the study with Ronald A. Hites, Distinguished Professor in SPEA and in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The study measured concentrations of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants collected in tree bark samples at 12 locations around the globe: three sites in Canada and single sites in Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Czech Republic, South Africa, Nepal, Indonesia, Tasmania and American Samoa.
The highest concentrations were found at an urban site: Downsview, Ontario, Canada, near Toronto. However, the second-highest concentration of one type of flame retardant, Dechlorane Plus, was found at a remote site at Bukit Kototabang in Indonesia. Researchers don't know the cause of the relatively high concentrations at the site but suspect it may be near a source.
The study was carried out in cooperation with the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling network, an international monitoring initiative established in 2004 on six continents.
Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants have been used for several decades in consumer products made of plastic, foam, wood and textiles to prevent combustion and slow the spread of fire. They persist in the environment and bio-accumulate in ecosystems and in human tissues. Exposure to the compounds has been associated with thyroid and other endocrine system disruption and with adverse neurological development. As a result, the production and use of certain flame retardants has been restricted in North America and the European Union.
Researchers measured a variety of flame retardants, including widely used polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDE, as well as nonregulated compounds such as Dechlorane Plus and "older" flame retardants that were used in the 1980s. Findings included:
Most of the compounds were detected at all the locations, with concentrations varying widely.
Concentrations were associated with population density, suggesting the compounds most likely entered the environment through their use in nearby homes and offices.
Concentrations found in tree bark are correlated with those measured in previous atmospheric sampling at the sites by the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling network.
Higher concentrations of flame retardants in bark and the atmosphere have been found by Hites and others in previous studies of the Great Lakes region, especially urban areas near Chicago and Cleveland, and also at cities in China. Even higher concentrations were found in southern Arkansas and at Niagara Falls, N.Y., near the sites of manufacturing facilities for PBDE and Dechlorane Plus, respectively.
The study also confirms the effectiveness of using tree bark as a sampling medium, a technique that Hites and colleagues have used in previous studies of persistent organic pollutants such as flame retardants.
Bark makes an effective sampling medium because of its large surface area and high lipid content. The samples are easy and inexpensive to collect, an advantage in developing countries that lack funding for extensive environmental monitoring programs. Tree bark also collects both vapor and particle phase pollutants, while other samplers collect one or the other.
Support for the study came from the Great Lakes National Program Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The article is available online. To speak with Salamova or Hites, contact Steve Hinnefeld at IU Communications, 812-856-3488 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jim Hanchett at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 812-856-5490 or email@example.com
Steve Hinnefeld | EurekAlert!
Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News