Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been dubbed the
PCBs of the 21st century (Wilbur 2005). Commonly used as flame-retardants, PBDEs are
found in a wide variety of products including furniture and electronic equipment. PBDEs
are mixed with polymers like plastics and polyurethane as they are being made, but do not
bind to the polymers chemically, and so can leach from these materials throughout the life
of the product. Since PBDEs can be a significant component of these materials (e.g.
up to 30% in polyurethane cushions), and are highly stable and thus persistent in nature,
there is strong potential for environmental contamination by these compounds.
PBDE residues have been found in the tissues of marine and
terrestrial species around the globe (Boer et al. 1998, Lichota et al. 2004, Wolkers et
al. 2004) and to have major impacts on animal and human health. For example, PBDEs
are linked to decreased eggshell thickness in peregrine falcons (Sørensen et al. 2004)
and decreased bone densities in polar bears (Sonne et al. 2004). PBDEs have also
been found to be potent thyroid disruptors (Ilonka et al. 2000), have been implicated in
the development of learning disabilities in mice (Eriksson et al. 2001) and are likely
carcinogens (McDonald 2002). PBDE concentrations in human tissues have increased
about 100 fold over the past 30 years, with concentrations in people from the
States being about 20 times higher than in people from
Europe, where there has been
stronger regulatory control over PBDE manufacture and use (Hites 2004).
of PBDEs in
New Jerseys Coastal Ecosystems are poorly known. To address this
data gap, we propose to develop the proficiencies required to monitor PBDEs in sediment,
water and biota within the
Bay. Once the methodologies have been
established and tested within our laboratories, we intend to develop a monitoring program
to assess the extent of and changes in PBDE pollution in the
Bay over time.
Along with Dr. Andrew Weber (Dept of Chemistry, GCU), my students and
I are well on our way to being able to assess the concentrations of these important
environmental contaminants in New Jersey's Coastal Waters and are looking forward to
starting collecting and analyzing water, sediment and tissue samples collected in various
New Jersey Estuaries in the Spring of 2006.
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