Chemicals used as flame retardants are present as environmental pollutants at locations around the globe, including remote sites in Indonesia, Nepal and Tasmania, according to a study by researchers from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
The study, published this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, makes use of a novel but highly effective sampling technique: measuring concentrations of the chemicals in the bark of trees, which absorbs compounds in both vapor and particle phases.
“These findings illustrate further that flame retardants are ubiquitous pollutants and are found all around the world, not only in biota and humans but also in plants,” said Amina Salamova, a research associate in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington and co-author of the study with Ronald A. Hites, Distinguished Professor in SPEA and in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The study measured concentrations of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants collected in tree bark samples at 12 locations around the globe: three sites in Canada and single sites in Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Czech Republic, South Africa, Nepal, Indonesia, Tasmania and American Samoa.
The highest concentrations were found at an urban site: Downsview, Ontario, Canada, near Toronto. However, the second-highest concentration of one type of flame retardant, Dechlorane Plus, was found at a remote site at Bukit Kototabang in Indonesia. Researchers don’t know the cause of the relatively high concentrations at the site but suspect it may be near a source.
Science Brief thanks to EurekAlert.
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Study finds flame retardant pollutants at far-flung locations
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