| Home | About Us | Login/Register | Email News Tips |

A liberal dose of news, national and local politics, commentary, opinions and common sense conversation…

Polar Bears Face New Toxic Threat: Flame Retardants

by Pamela Leavey

I took one look at the photo below and my heart sank. The effects of toxic chemicals on man and beast are becoming more prevelent every day. This is however, of little interest to the current administration who consistently seeks to lower environmental protections across the board.

Marla Cone / Los Angeles Times

A story in today’s L.A. Times outlines the effects of PBDEs on Polar Bears in the Arctic and how these toxic chemicals have spread by “northbound winds and ocean currents.”

Already imperiled by melting ice and a brew of toxic chemicals, polar bears throughout the Arctic, particularly in remote dens near the North Pole, face an additional threat as flame retardants originating largely in the United States are building up in their bodies, according to an international team of wildlife scientists.

The flame retardants are one of the newest additions to hundreds of industrial compounds and pesticides carried to the Arctic by northbound winds and ocean currents. Accumulating in the fatty tissues of animals, many chemicals grow more concentrated as larger creatures eat smaller ones, turning the Arctic’s top predators and native people into some of the most contaminated living organisms on Earth.

In urban areas, particularly in North America, researchers already have shown that levels of flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyls, or PBDEs, are growing at a rapid pace in people and wildlife. Although they have been found in much lower concentrations in the Arctic, scientists say their toxic legacy will persist there for years because they are slow to break down, particularly in cold climates.

Sadly, these toxic chemicals are not just a threat to Polar Bears, “virtually every animal and person tested on Earth contains traces of brominated flame retardants, scientists say.”

Americans have the highest levels found so far, and many U.S. women carry concentrations in their breast milk that are close to the amounts that altered the brains of newborn mice in lab tests.

The NRDC reports that the EPA plans to weaken the reporting rules for the Toxics Release Inventory.

The Toxics Release Inventory is an Environmental Protection Agency database that contains information on toxic chemicals released by industries in the United States.

The EPA is proposing to weaken the inventory’s effectiveness, however, by allowing polluters to report their chemical releases only every other year. Other proposed changes could exempt about 4,000 industrial facilities from providing detailed information about toxic chemical releases, and allow them to report only minimal information about these pollutants. These changes could seriously undermine communities’ efforts to prevent and reduce harmful pollution.

The EPA is accepting comments on its proposed changes to the Toxics Release Inventory reporting rules through January 13th.

Tell the EPA not to let industry hide toxic pollution from the public,” because it’s not just Polar Bears who are affected by these toxic chemicals, you are too.

3 Responses to “Polar Bears Face New Toxic Threat: Flame Retardants”

  1. There is something cuddly and endearing about that large, wild animal, just like the big-eyed baby seals. So helpless in that photo.

    If business polluters don’t care about kids’ asthma, cancer and global warming effects, what chance with animals.

  2. Marjorie G

    My thoughts exactly. What a photo, these beautiful creatures are doomed if we don’t strengthen measures for pollution and so are we one day.

  3. Seems to me the flame retardants were started as a safety issue. Like asbestos, it seems to have backfired…

    Maybe the clothing industry will be willing to fight the chemical industry for changing the laws.

    As powerful and destructive as they are, polar bears are also susceptible to the invisible threat of chemical toxins. And they have livers with so much vitamin A stored, it is toxic for humans to eat them!