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PBDEs

Sediment

PBDEs (µg/kg dry weight)

Mussels

PBDEs (µg/kg wet weight)
North
0.130997 µg/kg
0.130997 µg/kg
Metlakatla
0.24548 µg/kg
0.24548 µg/kg
8.57583 µg/kg
8.57583 µg/kg
Prince Rupert
2.74323 µg/kg
2.74323 µg/kg
4.46383 µg/kg
4.46383 µg/kg
Wiah Point
0.396314 µg/kg
0.396314 µg/kg
0.010995 µg/kg
0.010995 µg/kg
Armentieres Channel
0.043164 µg/kg
0.043164 µg/kg
0.325379 µg/kg
0.325379 µg/kg
Bischof Islands
0.235641 µg/kg
0.235641 µg/kg
0.228935 µg/kg
0.228935 µg/kg
Haswell Bay
0.225249 µg/kg
0.225249 µg/kg
0.017215 µg/kg
0.017215 µg/kg
Louscoone Inlet
0.030524 µg/kg
0.030524 µg/kg
0.03677 µg/kg
0.03677 µg/kg
Bella Bella
0.042523 µg/kg
0.042523 µg/kg
0.087115 µg/kg
0.087115 µg/kg
Port Neville
0.444386 µg/kg
0.444386 µg/kg
0.204185 µg/kg
0.204185 µg/kg
Sechelt
Not sampled
1.40768 µg/kg
1.40768 µg/kg
Strait of Georgia 1
Not sampled
0.943724 µg/kg
0.943724 µg/kg
Strait of Georgia 2
Not sampled
0.067051 µg/kg
0.067051 µg/kg
Howe Sound 1
Not sampled
0.397425 µg/kg
0.397425 µg/kg
Howe Sound 2
0.80136 µg/kg
0.80136 µg/kg
0.852402 µg/kg
0.852402 µg/kg
Howe Sound 3
0.830477 µg/kg
0.830477 µg/kg
0.197934 µg/kg
0.197934 µg/kg
Indian Arm 1
0.716203 µg/kg
0.716203 µg/kg
0.650684 µg/kg
0.650684 µg/kg
Indian Arm 2
0.112725 µg/kg
0.112725 µg/kg
4.51335 µg/kg
4.51335 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 1
0.71613 µg/kg
0.71613 µg/kg
15.1213 µg/kg
15.1213 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 2
Not sampled
0.690537 µg/kg
0.690537 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 3
0.802595 µg/kg
0.802595 µg/kg
0.19374 µg/kg
0.19374 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 4
Not analyzed
3.4125 µg/kg
3.4125 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 5
Not sampled
1.40003 µg/kg
1.40003 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 6
1.45651 µg/kg
1.45651 µg/kg
6.67013 µg/kg
6.67013 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 7
Not sampled
2.63684 µg/kg
2.63684 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 8
0.766272 µg/kg
0.766272 µg/kg
Not sampled
Burrard Inlet 9
0.689411 µg/kg
0.689411 µg/kg
1.35436 µg/kg
1.35436 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 10
0.400784 µg/kg
0.400784 µg/kg
1.66682 µg/kg
1.66682 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 11
Not sampled
17.357 µg/kg
17.357 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 12
Not sampled
1.91096 µg/kg
1.91096 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 13
Not sampled
3.49851 µg/kg
3.49851 µg/kg
Burrard Inlet 14
Not sampled
Not sampled
Burrard Inlet 15
0.381261 µg/kg
0.381261 µg/kg
0.062899 µg/kg
0.062899 µg/kg
Fraser River 1
0.971247 µg/kg
0.971247 µg/kg
0.616429 µg/kg
0.616429 µg/kg
Fraser River 2
Not sampled
1.12949 µg/kg
1.12949 µg/kg
Fraser River 3
Not sampled
1.61781 µg/kg
1.61781 µg/kg
Fraser River 4
Not sampled
1.33352 µg/kg
1.33352 µg/kg
Fraser River 5
Not sampled
Not sampled
Fraser River 6
0.560482 µg/kg
0.560482 µg/kg
Not sampled
Fraser River 7
0.59501 µg/kg
0.59501 µg/kg
0.12513 µg/kg
0.12513 µg/kg
Tsawwassen
Not sampled
0.048836 µg/kg
0.048836 µg/kg
Lemmens inlet
Not sampled
0.124114 µg/kg
0.124114 µg/kg
Grice Bay
Not sampled
0.099435 µg/kg
0.099435 µg/kg
Dixon Island
1.08917 µg/kg
1.08917 µg/kg
0.126056 µg/kg
0.126056 µg/kg
Saturna Island
0.784293 µg/kg
0.784293 µg/kg
0.200978 µg/kg
0.200978 µg/kg
Fulford Harbour 1
0.258604 µg/kg
0.258604 µg/kg
0.043578 µg/kg
0.043578 µg/kg
Fulford Harbour 2
0.211026 µg/kg
0.211026 µg/kg
0.171396 µg/kg
0.171396 µg/kg
Patricia Bay
0.11377 µg/kg
0.11377 µg/kg
0.209403 µg/kg
0.209403 µg/kg
Finnerty Cove 1
0.445163 µg/kg
0.445163 µg/kg
0.098242 µg/kg
0.098242 µg/kg
Finnerty Cove 2
Not sampled
57.9798 µg/kg
57.9798 µg/kg
Victoria Harbour 1
Not sampled
57.1209 µg/kg
57.1209 µg/kg
Victoria Harbour 2
2.85314 µg/kg
2.85314 µg/kg
64.5502 µg/kg
64.5502 µg/kg
Victoria Harbour 3
Not sampled
11.8645 µg/kg
11.8645 µg/kg
Victoria Harbour 4
2.33649 µg/kg
2.33649 µg/kg
0.025703 µg/kg
0.025703 µg/kg
Albert Head 1
0.328773 µg/kg
0.328773 µg/kg
0.250637 µg/kg
0.250637 µg/kg
Albert Head 2
Not sampled
South

What are they?

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are brominated flame retardants used in manufactured materials. PBDEs were never manufactured in Canada and are no longer used, but were historically imported in finished products such as furniture, electronics, and vehicles. The total historical production of all PBDEs from 1970 to 2005 has been estimated at between 1.3 and 1.5 million tonnes.1

PBDEs can be classified by the number of bromine atoms they contain. Octa and deca-BDEs (eight and 10 bromine atoms, respectively) are mostly found in plastics and electronic housings, while penta-BDEs (five bromine atoms) are used primarily in polyurethane foams and textiles.2

How do they get into the ocean?

The major pathways by which PBDEs enter the marine environment are likely wastewater treatment plants and landfill runoff. In addition, combustion of waste containing PBDEs can introduce PBDEs into the atmosphere3, and they can subsequently be deposited in the marine environment.

FACT: Although there are 209 different PBDE congeners that are theoretically possible, just one – BDE-209, contributes approximately 80% of the total PBDEs in sediments in the Strait of Georgia.4 This form of the chemical is unstable and can break down in a way that makes it easier to move into aquatic food webs.5

PBDEs can also travel long distances through the atmosphere, and recent studies indicate that non-North American sources make significant contributions of PBDEs to coastal British Columbia air.6 PBDEs are persistent and bioaccumulate in marine food webs7, though decreases in PBDE levels have been documented in both seabird and marine mammal tissues since restrictions on use, sale, and import of PBDEs were implemented in Canada.8,9

Are they a problem?

Brominated flame retardants are known to have toxic effects in terrestrial and aquatic organisms. PBDEs can disrupt hormones, and exposure can lead to long-term developmental effects on neurological, reproductive, and immune systems.3 The most widely used chemical in this group, deca-BDE, is also suspected to cause cancer.

PBDEs biomagnify (increase in concentration) in food webs, exposing high trophic level species to levels that may cause health effects.10 In mammals, PBDEs can also be transferred from mother to young via the placenta11,12 and via lactation13,14, creating an exposure route for developing young. In harbour seals, PBDEs were found to impact thyroid hormone expression as well as the immune system.15

What is being done?

In Canada, regulations implemented in 2008 prohibited the manufacture of all PBDEs and restricted the use and sale of penta-BDE in commercial mixtures.5 As of 2016, prohibitions on use and sale were extended to all PBDEs (including deca-BDE) and products containing them, except manufactured items.16

Penta and octa-BDEs were banned by the European Union (EU) in 2004 and have been listed as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention. Deca-BDE is the most widely used PBDE globally, and is still produced in the United States and Europe.3 The EU has announced plans to regulate deca-BDE beginning in March 2019.17

Canadian federal environmental quality guidelines (FEQGs) have been developed for PBDEs for water, sediment, fish tissue, and bird eggs.18

What can we do?

As individuals and organizations, we can:

  • Learn more about PBDEs and other brominated flame retardants using the resource links below
  • Recycle and dispose of waste responsibly and according to local guidelines
  • Avoid using products that contain PBDEs and other contaminants of concern. The US EPA’s Safer Choice program identifies products that are safer for humans and the environment and can be used as a reference to check product ingredients.19,20 The Green Science Policy Institute also provides information regarding consumer choices.21

More Information?

1 UNEP. 2010. Technical review of the implications of recycling commercial Penta and Octabromodiphenyl ethers. Stockholm Convention document for 6th POP Reviewing Committee meeting (UNEP/POPS/POPRC.6/2) Geneva 11-15.

2 Vonderheide AP, MuellerKE, Meija, J, Welsh G. 2008. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers: Causes for concern and knowledge gaps regarding environmental distribution, fate and toxicity. Science of the Total Environment 400: 425-436.

3 Akortia E, Okonkwo JO, Lupankwa M, Osae SD, Daso AP, Olukunle OI, Chaudhary A. 2016. A review of sources, levels, and toxicity of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and their transformation and transport in various environmental compartments. Environmental Reviews 24: 253-273.

4 Ross PS, Couillard CM, Ikonomou MG, Johannessen SC, Lebeuf M, Macdonald RW, Tomy GT. 2009. Large and growing environmental reservoirs of Deca-BDE present an emerging health risk for fish and marine mammals. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 7-10.

5 Garrett C, Ross PS. 2010. Recovering Resident Killer Whales: A Guide to Contaminant Sources, Mitigation, and Regulations in British Columbia. Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2894: xiii + 224 p.

6Noël M, Dangerfield N, Hourston RAS, Belzer W, Shaw P, Yunker MB, Ross PS. 2009. Do trans-Pacific air masses deliver PBDEs to coastal British Columbia, Canada? Environmental Pollution 157:3404–3412.

7de Wit CA. 2002. An overview of brominated flame retardants in the environment. Chemosphere 46: 583-624.

8Miller A, Elliott JE, Elliott KH, Guigueno MF, Wilson LK, Lee S, Idrissi A. 2015. Brominated flame retardant trends in aquatic birds from the Salish Sea region of the west coast of North America, including a mini-review of recent trends in marine and estuarine birds. Science of the Total Environment 502: 60-69.

9Ross PS, Noël M, Lambourn D, Dangerfield N, Calambokidis J, Jeffries S. 2013. Declining concentrations of persistent PCBs, PBDEs, PCDEs, and PCNs in harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) from the Salish Sea. Progress in Oceanography 115: 160-170.

10Alava JJ, Ross PS, Gobas FAPC. 2016. Food web bioaccumulation model for resident killer whales from the northeastern Pacific Ocean as a tool for the derivation of PBDE-sediment quality guidelines. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 70: 155-168.

11Brown TM, Ross PS, Reimer KJ. 2016. Transplacental transfer of polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenylethers, and organochlorine pesticides in ringed seals (Pusa hispida). Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 70: 20-27.

12Desforges JPW, Ross PS, Loseto LL. 2012. Transplacental transfer of polychlorinated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in arctic beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 31: 296-300.

13Wolkers H, Hammill MO, van Bavel B. 2006. Tissue-specific accumulation and lactational transfer of polychlorinated biphenyls, chlorinated pesticides, and brominated flame retardants in hooded seals (Cistophora cristata) from the Gulf of St. Lawrence: Applications for monitoring. Environmental Pollution 142: 476-486.

14Frouin H, Lebeuf M, Hammill M, Fournier M. 2012. Transfer of PBDEs and chlorinated POPs from mother to pup during lactation in harp seals Phoca groenlandica. Science of the Total Environment 417-418: 98-107.

15Frouin H, Lebeuf M, Hammill M, Masson S, Fournier M. 2010. Effects of individual polybrominated diphenyl either (PBDE) congeners on harbour seal immune cells in vitro. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 291-298.

16Health Canada. 2017. DecaBDE (Decabromodiphenyl Ether). Available at: (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/fact-sheets/chemicals-glance/decabde.html).

17Official Journal of the European Union. 2017.Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/227. Available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32017R0227&from=EN

18EC 2013. Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Environment Canada, February 2013.

19US EPA. 2018. Safer Choice. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice

20US EPA. 2014. An Alternatives Assessment for the Flame Retardant Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE). Available at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/decabde_final.pdf

21Green Science Policy Institute. 2017. Flame Retardants. Available at: http://www.sixclasses.org/videos/flame-retardants

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