Toxic Flame Retardants Threaten Human Health
How could the Arctic, seemingly untouched by contemporary ills, so innocent, so primitive, so natural, be home to the most contaminated people on the planet?
Organic pollutants concentrations found in maternal blood serum of Yupik women within the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta area of Alaska are the highest known human PBDE levels in the Arctic.This discovery prompted international action to address persistent organic pollutants contamination as a global issue because it demonstrated the capacity of these chemicals to harm people who live in a region of the world that is far distant from areas of production and use.
PBDEs are now ubiquitous contaminants in Arctic biota, from plankton to polar bears, as well as humans. Deca-BDE levels in the Arctic atmosphere are increasing rapidly, with a doubling time of 3.5-6.2 years.
Exposure to PBDEs has been linked with neurodevelopmental and endocrine disruption in animal and human studies. Elevated levels of PBDE exposures during pregnancy in women are also associated with changes in maternal thyroid hormone levels, decreased fertility, and lower birth weight babies.
This research comes from a 5-year community-based research project supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Protecting Future Generations, a collaboration investigating the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals with the Yupik communities of St. Lawrence Island and two universities.