Flame retardant Dechlorane Plus accumulation in birds

photo credit; Antony Grossy photo credit; Antony Grossy

A new study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment has found that the flame retardant Dechlorane Plus (DP) is accumulating in birds. DP is a flame retardant added to hard plastics used in electrical equipment such as computer monitors and television. It was developed as an alternative to an older flame retardant banned in the 1970s and is being considered to replace another flame retardant recently banned due to its toxicity to humans and persistence in the environment. However, the fact that DP does not bind to plastics raises concerns that it may easily contaminate the environment, creating a health hazard for humans and wildlife. Researchers measured DP levels in the tissues of seven different bird species collected in the Shimentai National Nature Reserve in South China. DP was found in all birds tested. However, levels were higher in birds that exclusively eat insects than in birds that eat both insects and plants. This result suggests that DP is a bio-accumulator. Instead of breaking down over time, it accumulates in the tissues of animals that consume it. Insectivorous birds are at risk for high levels of exposure when they consume insects with high levels of DP in their tissues. Not surprisingly, researchers also found that birds collected in urban areas that were close to electronic waste sites also had higher levels of DP flame retardant in their tissues.