Flame retardant chemicals found in all grocery store foods containing animal fat (beef and dairy)
- Staff writers
- A new study has found flame retardant chemicals, called PBDEs, in foods taken straight from supermarket shelves in Dallas, Texas, suggesting that food may be a key source of the contamination measured in people around the world.
- The report, which was published online Sept. 1 by Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world''s largest scientific society, revealed higher levels of flame retardants in the foods here than similar market studies from other countries.
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) --- used widely as flame-retardant additives in electronics and in polyurethane foam used for carpet padding, mattresses, chairs, sofas and other furniture --- have been detected in humans across the globe, but scientists are not certain how they are getting there.
- Schecter and his coworkers tested 32 food samples from three major supermarket chains in Dallas.
- "We found PBDE contamination in all food containing animal fats," Schecter says, with the highest levels in fish, followed by meat and then dairy products.
- PBDEs are most soluble in fats, so they tend to accumulate in animal and human tissues.
- Only two other similar market basket studies have been done --- in Spain and Japan --- and the U.S. levels were higher than both, according to the Texas study.
- The Spanish study reported an upper level of 340 parts per trillion (ppt), while the most contaminated sample in the Texas study was a salmon filet with a concentration of more than 3,000 ppt.
- Schecter plans to extend the research to a larger study of foods from across the United States to better understand how people are exposed to flame retardants through their diets.
- The European Union has banned two types of PBDEs --- the penta and octa formulations --- and is currently considering a ban on a third type, the deca formulation.