Flame-retardant chemical polybrominated diphenyl ether, or PBDE, is now found in more areas in the US than a decade ago. Linked to reproductive and neurological problems, the chemical has been used in a variety of consumer goods including building materials, electronics, motor vehicles and textiles since the 1970s. It enters the environment through improper disposal of household and electronic waste or through sewage sludge and impacts the food web.
From analyses of mussels and coastal sediments between 2004 and 2007, scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa) found traces of the chemical in all coastal waters and in the Great Lakes. It is present in high concentrations near urban and industrial areas, their report said. In 1996, noaa scientists found pbde in a few sites around the country.
Use of pbde is banned in Europe.