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Mar Pollut Bull. 2009 Jan;58(1):7-10. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.09.002. Epub 2008 Oct 16.

Large and growing environmental reservoirs of Deca-BDE present an emerging health risk for fish and marine mammals.

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Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Sidney, BC, Canada.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been the subject of intense scientific and regulatory scrutiny during recent years. Of the three commercial forms (Penta, Octa and Deca) of PBDEs that have been widely used as flame retardants in textiles, furniture upholstery, plastics, and electronics, only Deca-BDE remains on the general market in North America, while a recent ruling of the European Court spells an impending end to its use in Europe. We review here highlights of aquatic research documenting the rapid emergence of PBDEs as a high priority environmental concern in Canada. PBDEs are being introduced in large quantities to the aquatic environment through sewage discharge and atmospheric deposition. In certain environmental compartments, the single congener BDE-209, the main ingredient in the Deca-BDE formulation, has surpassed the legacy PCBs and DDT as the top contaminant by concentration. Limited biomagnification of BDE-209 in aquatic food webs reflects its high log K(ow) and preferential partitioning into the particle phase. As a result, large environmental reservoirs of BDE-209 are being created in sediments, and these may present a long-term threat to biota: BDE-209 breaks down into more persistent, more bioaccumulative, more toxic, and more mobile PBDE congeners in the environment.

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