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Rev Environ Health. 2009 Jul-Sep;24(3):157-229.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in marine ecosystems of the American continents: foresight from current knowledge.

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  • 1Marine Environmental Research Institute, Center for Marine Studies, Blue Hill, ME 04614, USA. sshaw@meriresearch.org


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of synthetic halogenated organic compounds used in commercial and household products, such as textiles, furniture, and electronics, to increase their flame ignition resistance and to meet fire safety standards. The demonstrated persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxic potential of these compounds in animals and in humans are of increasing concern. The oceans are considered global sinks for PBDEs, as higher levels are found in marine organisms than in terrestrial biota. For the past three decades, North America has dominated the world market demand for PBDEs, consuming 95% of the penta-BDE formulation. Accordingly, the PBDE concentrations in marine biota and people from North America are the highest in the world and are increasing. Despite recent restrictions on penta- and octa-BDE commercial formulations, penta-BDE containing products will remain a reservoir for PBDE release for years to come, and the deca-BDE formulation is still in high-volume use. In this paper, we review all available data on the occurrence and trends of PBDEs in the marine ecosystems (air, water, sediments, invertebrates, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals) of North and South America. We outline here our concerns about the potential future impacts of large existing stores of banned PBDEs in consumer products, and the vast and growing reservoirs of deca-BDE as well as new and naturally occurring brominated compounds on marine ecosystems.

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