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Another reason for a War on Plastic: additive deca-BDE

The following summary is from the East Bay Express (Emeryville, California), February 16, 2005.  (permission granted)

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE family) are flame retardants that behave in rats like PCBs do, and are all over the environment, the way DDT ended up in the Arctic.  Two kinds of PBDE were banned but a third type, deca-BDE, was excluded from regulations -- "a grave error," according to a new feature story in the East Bay Express weekly newspaper.  The following continues Culture Change's summary of the article:

PBDEs including deca-BDE is in breast milk.  Exposures early in life can alter reproductive structures, lower sperm count, delay puberty, and damage the ovaries.  Five percent of the population has quite high PDBE levels, "a margin of safety that is pretty low," according to the California EPA's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Deca is made worldwide to the tune of 125 million pounds every year, as " additive to high-impact polystyrene plastics used in a wide variety of products: hair dryers, toasters, curling irons, coffeemakers, TVs, computer casings, printers, fax machines, smoke detectors, and light fixtures.  It is used in very large amounts -- up to 15 percent of the plastic by weight.  It is also added to backing in textiles for drapes, furniture, and rugs, and to some polyurethane foams."

A Calif. Dept. of Toxic Substances Control researcher, Dr. Kim Hooper, says "The myth was that it is stable, doesn't degrade, doesn't disperse, stays in sediment or products, is not metabolized, and is not taken up by biota."  Deca is nearly everything it was assumed not to be.  Its widespread use means an enormous reservoir of the chemical accumulates indoors, where people spend more than 80 percent of their time.  It has been found at significant levels in household dust, in the film on the inside of windows, and in office air.  Like deca's banned counterparts penta and octa, and PCBs, it now also appears to cause neurodevelopmental damage in animals.  Deca goes through the body rapidly, but may be broken down by sunlight into smaller molecules including its toxic, banned family members.

Dr. Hooper: "The final reality is that we have more than a half-billion pounds of the stuff above ground in consumer products in close human contact, and another half-billion below ground in sediment.  This billion pounds eventually breaks down; into what, we don't know."

The East Bay Express's Andy Isaacson, author of the article, said "As the foam in sofa cushions breaks down in landfills over time, for example, the released PBDEs get carried by the wind and are deposited far and wide -- the "grasshopper effect."  The toxins ultimately work their way up the food chain to accumulate in humans and predatory animals."

The Environmental Working Group studies PBDEs in dust and breast milk, says "we're finding chemicals in everyday household products -- furniture, Teflon pans, cosmetics -- to be very dangerous."


The East Bay Express is the source of the above in "The Gorilla In The Closet" on deca-BDE.  I told the magazine that "Plastics is the papa gorilla."  

As alarming as the story in the East Bay Express is, it contains no conclusion along the lines that we should not be buying or using the consumer junk that people think they need. However, East Bay Express did point people to the Environmental Working Group (link below) which has suggested ways to lower your PDBE exposure; " was a space issue," East Bay Express told Culture Change.

 - Jan Lundberg

and the full story from East Bay Express:


Other links 

War on Plastics by Jan Lundberg
Plastics: Your formidable enemy
by Jan Lundberg

Plastic Oceans
news article.
Algalita Marine Research Foundation, maker of  the movie, "Our Synthetic Sea" available for purchase.
Earth Resource Foundation's "Sea Turtles Don't Shop" anti-plastic bag campaign.
Paul Goettlich's Get Plastic Out of Your Diet
and his 
PVC: A Health Hazard From Production through Disposal
Scientific American article on "green plastics"
Sustainable business: 
Scripps Howard plastics article in Seattle daily newspaper.
"Paper or plastic?" Why the kill-for-oil culture will collapse and die.
Trash society, trash fashion, trash worship.
"Plastic disaster is creeping on me..." - the Depavers song Green is the Shelter
Funding link below for CAPP:

Donate to the Campaign Against the Plastics Plague (tax deductible; sponsored by the Earth Resource Foundation) to help us help you and the countless creatures harmed by petroleum/plastics.  Thank you.

To support Culture Change/Sustainable Energy Institute and its projects, make a tax-deductible donation.

For another Singer masterpiece, go to above article's Singer bookmark

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