Humans have a love-hate relationship with fire. Sure, it keeps us warm and cooks our food, but it also terrifies us. That’s why we invented fire-proof pajamas, Christmas trees and—a bad idea in hindsight—asbestos.
Speaking of flame retardants, research claims fire retardant chemicals, many used since the 1970s, are turning up in droves in U.S. waters, such as the Great Lakes and coastlines, and especially near urban areas and industrial centers:
The nationwide survey found that New York’s Hudson-Raritan Estuary had the highest overall concentrations of the chemicals, both in sediments and shellfish, but scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, in all U.S. coastal waters.
These toxic chemicals are used as flame retardants in building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, plastics, polyurethane foams and textiles.
The federal Agency for Toxic Substances says that the concentrations of PBDEs in human blood, breast milk, and body fat indicate that most Americans are exposed to low levels of PBDEs.
And growing evidence suggests these chemicals may be linked to neurobehavioral disorders and impaired immune systems, and these compounds can be passed on to infants through mother’s breast milk.
Other studies have tried to establish a link between flame retardants and obesity, but no link has been found.