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Microbes transform 'safest' PBDEs into more harmful compounds

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This new study supports the notion that this process also could occur in the real world, raising concerns about the continued manufacture and use of deca-BDEs, Alvarez-Cohen says. In their study, Alvarez-Cohen and her colleagues exposed octa-BDE and deca-BDE to five types of anaerobic bacteria commonly found in the soil. Based on previous research with other compounds, they anticipated that the bacteria would break down deca-BDEs into benign components. Instead, the microbes transformed deca-BDEs into octa-BDEs and the octa-BDEs into the more harmful penta- and tetra-BDEs.

"Now that we understand that certain PBDEs found in the environment can be transformed into more toxic forms, we need to make more intelligent policy decisions with respect to how, or even if, we should use these compounds," Alvarez-Cohen says.

PBDEs are used in televisions, computers, wire insulation, upholstery and many other products containing plastic and foam. If these products overheat, PBDEs release atoms called bromines that sap oxygen from the air, preventing a fire. Over time, PBDE’s can leach into the air, soil and sediment, and move up through the food chain. These compounds have been detected in fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products and even household dust.

The American Chemical Society ?the world’s largest scientific society ?is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

?Doug Dollemore
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Source:American Chemical Society


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