Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are organo-bromide compounds which have an inhibitory effect on ignition of combustible organic materials. They are effective in plastics and textiles applications. BFRs are used in electronic products as a means of reducing flammability of the product. Brominated flame or fire retardants include a wide range of chemicals added to house hold furnishings and products to inhibit their ignition and reduce chance of fire. Concern surrounding toxicity of this class of chemicals has risen due to widespread accumulation of BFRs in humans and in natural environment. There are nearly 175 types of flame retardants, which are divided into classes that include brominated, chlorinated, phosphorus-containing, nitrogen-containing and inorganic flame retardants. BFRs have been routinely added to consumer products like computers, TVs, electrical cables, carpets, furniture and textiles, in a successful effort to reduce fire-related injuries and property damage.
BFRs are found almost everywhere in environment, from house dust and indoor and outdoor air, to sediments in rivers, estuaries and oceans. BFR contamination was discovered in polar bears, eagles and in blubber of sperm whales in deep waters of Atlantic Ocean. High levels of chemicals have been found in atmosphere and rivers near urban & industrialized areas. Perhaps greatest concern is concentration of chemicals found in the blood of office workers and in human breast milk where it can be transferred from mother to child.
One type of BFR is TBBP-A, which is linked to breast cancer which plays crucial role in development of brain and body. Low level exposure of mice to PBDE – another BFR – causes permanent disturbance sin behaviour, memory and learning. PBDEs can affect developing brain and they can affect the developing reproductive system.
World Health Organization has called for disuse of PBDEs where adequate are available. UK Department for Trade and Industry calls fears over PBDEs ‘chemical paranoia’. European Union has banned PBDEs in electronic devices and in United States, PBDEs are heavily regulated.
Alternatives to BFRs that provide comparable fire safety are available and many products have been redesigned so that flame-retardant chemicals are unnecessary. Apple and Sony have changed casing material for MacBook Air and Vaio respectively to reduce need for flame-reductant additives. However, BFRs are still used in wide array of products and testing for presence of chemicals is difficult for layperson.
In summary, BFRs, though highly regulated, continue to pervade homes and natural environment, exposing humans to potential danger.
The FDA has developed an online learning module to help seafood industry, retailers and state regulators ensure proper labelling of seafood products offered for sale in the U.S. marketplace. Proper identification of seafood is important to ensure that appropriate food safety controls are implemented and that consumers are getting the type of seafood they expect. Fish are a lean, low-calorie source of protein. However, some fish may contain chemicals which could pose health risks. When contaminant levels are unsafe, consumption advisories like U.S. FDA or EPAmust recommend that people avoid eating certain species of fish caught in certain places.
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