Scientists found unusually high levels of flame retardant in dolphin blubber.
The closer the dolphins lived to downtown Miami, the more of the chemical was concentrated in them. The flame retardant can cause sterility in dolphins. Brominated flame retardants are applied to furniture, clothes and electronics to prevent them from burning. They also help slow the ignition of items that are in a burning room.
Unfortunately they have been used so much they are showing up in unintended places, with potentially dire consquences. Bottlenose dolphins accumulate this type of chemical, and PCBS, and mercury. Flame retardants alone have been found to cause death of unborn dolphin calves for first time mothers. The flame retardants accumulated in the mother are passed to the calf during gestation. The United States produces a large amount of the chemical, “The U.S. has historically led the world production of these man-made chemicals and was responsible for about 50% of the total global demand in 2001.”
Flame retardants are also found in humans. At this time it is not known conclusively what impact the chemical could have on human health. Some believe it might interfere with childhood brain development. Others say it could disrupt normal immune function.
The NBC Miami story states, “Pretty much everyone who has eaten seafood has flame retardant in them, but scientists don’t know how much would be too much before it turns harmful.”
A type of flame retardant was banned this year in Washington state.
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Image Credit: Public Domain