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Environ Int. 2003 Sep;29(6):757-70.

Levels and trends of polybrominated diphenylethers and other brominated flame retardants in wildlife.

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  • 1Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, CEFAS Burnham Laboratory, Remembrance Avenue, Burnham on Crouch, Essex CM0 8HA, UK.


In this paper, we review the available data for polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) and other flame retardants in wildlife, with the exception of fishes from Europe and North America which are covered in more detail elsewhere. More data are available for PBDEs than for other compounds, and these show that some of these compounds have become widely distributed in the environment, being found in samples from Europe, Australia, Azerbaijan, North America and the Arctic. Most available data relate to birds and their eggs and marine mammals, but the results of two food web studies are also included. The detection of PBDEs in pelagic marine mammals which feed in deep offshore waters, including baleen whales, indicate that these compounds have found their way into deep-water, oceanic food webs as well as the coastal/shallow sea examples described in detail. In the North Sea study, the most marked increase in lipid-normalised concentrations of six BDE congeners occurred during transfer from predatory fish to marine mammals. In the St. Lawrence Estuary study, marked differences in the ratios observed between species suggested that some fish species may be able to metabolise BDE99.A number of time trend studies have also been conducted, notably in guillemot eggs from Sweden (1969-2000), beluga whales from the Canadian Arctic (1982-1997 and 1989-2001) and from the St. Lawrence Estuary (1988-1999), and ringed seals from the Canadian Arctic (1981-2000). In the temperate latitudes, from these and other studies (e.g. in dated sediment cores), PBDE concentrations began to rise earlier than in those from high latitudes, in line with data for production and use. These trends have now slowed in many cases. Declines could be expected in Europe for many congeners following the cessation of manufacture and use of the penta-mix formulation in the EU, though these are not yet apparent in environmental samples. In Arctic biota, however, the rapidly rising concentrations seen currently in Canada could be expected to continue for some time, reflecting continued production and use of the penta-mix formulation in North America (>95% of the world total) and the impact of long-range atmospheric transport.

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