Tainted Catch

Toxic fire retardants are building up rapidly in San Francisco Bay fish - and people

View and Download the report here: Tainted Catch

Levels of a little-known class of neurotoxic chemicals found in computers, TV sets, cars and furniture are building up rapidly in key indicator species of San Francisco Bay fish, according to tests by the Environmental Working Group (EWG.)

Analysis of six species of Bay fish, conducted for EWG by a California state toxics lab, detected polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in every fish sampled. The tests compared fish caught by local anglers with archived samples caught in 1997, and found that PBDE levels more than doubled in halibut and more than tripled in striped bass. Striped bass and halibut are the two most commonly eaten species of Bay fish, and as large, mobile, carnivorous species, are good indicators of overall toxic contamination in the Bay.

These are the first findings for PBDEs in Bay fish. They add to the evidence that the Bay Area is a hotspot for exposure to bromine- based chemicals, widely used in commercial flame retardants, that many scientists warn are “the next PCBs” — a notorious class of chemicals banned in 1977 after evidence that they cause cancer and build up in people and the environment. The European Union has banned two of the most commonly used PBDEs, effective next year, but in the United States they remain virtually unregulated by either state or federal authorities.

PBDEs and other brominated fire retardants (BFRs) are similar in chemical structure to PCBs, which are still found in the bodies of people and animals more than 20 years after they were removed from commercial products in the United States. Recent research on animals has shown that exposure to low levels of PBDEs can cause permanent neurological and developmental damage including deficits in learning, memory and hearing, changes in behavior, and delays in sensory-motor development. Most at risk are pregnant women, developing fetuses, infants and young children, and to a lesser extent, the 10 million Americans with hypothyroidism.

View and Download the report here: Tainted Catch

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