Scientists have found traces of a class of synthetic flame retardants known as polybriominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a once common additive to increase fire resistance in products that was banned in 2004 over environmental and health concerns, in common consumer products such as electronics, textiles, and plastics. One of the most threatening contaminates to human health are the persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are absorbed through direct contact, inhaled, and consumed by eating contaminated food. PBDEs are listed as a POP. They act as endocrine disruptors that cause developmental effects in children.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh urge consumers to be more aware of the origin of their food, as they detected the presence of PBDEs in farmed fish particularly from areas such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries process most of the electronic waste we produce but they do not regulate much of the recycling. PBDEs continue to be released into the environment because of their long lifetime and their abundance in once common products. Food for the fish farms often are imported from countries that have poorly regulated environmental rules. Scientists often look at the health of the people to determine if there has been exposure to pollutants, but now they are also looking for them in fish farms. They have found the best predictor of these pollutants are in salmon farms. They study how pollutants such as PBDEs are inhaled through gills and how the fish metabolize and eliminate the pollutants, and lastly, they look at how much of the pollutants are in the feed for the fish. Head scientist, Dr. Ng hope this model will be used on other types of fish and livestock to measure the amount of pollutants in the environment.