Packaging seriously contaminated by PBDE flame retardant


A new study led by Arnold Schechter of the University of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas Campus, has discovered what scientists believe to be the worst documented case of food contamination. It came to light during a routine examination of the levels of PBDEs and other persistent organic pollutants people inadvertently consumed in food. Low levels have already been observed in salmon, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products, but this is the first time the contamination has been thought to come from the foods packaging, as the levels of PBDEs were 16 times higher in the butter’s wrapper than in the butter itself.

PBDEs are flame retardants commonly used in wire casings, aeroplanes, cars, textiles and cable insulation. Some studies on animals have linked consumption of deca-BDE, a PBDE compound, to thyroid hormone changes and neuro-behavioural changes in adult and young rats.

US manufacturers have agreed to end all use of PBDEs by the end of 2014, and the EU had phased it out by 2008, but components containing PBDEs will still be in use for many years in our environment. Schechter and his co-authors agree that a screening programme to determine levels of PBDEs in food must be implemented.

Environmental Health Perspectives


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First Published in December 2010


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