"New Flame Retardant Levels Rising Rapidly"

"Air concentrations of the brominated chemicals doubled every 13 months in recent years in Cleveland and Chicago."

"Created to replace older chemicals thought to pose an environmental threat, new flame retardants have become widespread in the air near the Great Lakes, according to a new report.

Since the 1970s, manufacturers have used retardants to reduce fire risk in consumer products such as upholstered furniture, electronics, and clothing. Commonly used flame retardants called polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) volatilize from those products and escape into the environment, where they may pose health and environmental hazards.

In 2004, the flame-retardant industry began replacing PBDEs with new formulations including Firemaster 550 and Firemaster BZ-54, which contain 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB) and bis(2-ethylhexyl)-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH). But these chemicals could also have environmental risks: Research has suggested that the compounds can build up in fish and damage their DNA."

Sara Peach reports for Chemical & Engineering News December 7, 2011.

Source: C&EN, 12/08/2011