The football Seahawks are flying high to the Super Bowl! As Seahawks fans celebrate, the bird Seahawks (aka osprey) have something to celebrate too: lower levels of the toxic flame retardants PBDEs in birds and other wildlife.
It wasn’t long ago in 2009 that researchers found PBDEs in osprey eggs along the Columbia River. Scientists believe these chemicals affect the birds’ ability to reproduce and their brain development.
Now, two new studies show that laws banning the use of PBDEs, like one enacted in Washington, have likely led to decreased levels of the chemicals in some wildlife species. Although the new studies didn’t test levels of the chemicals in osprey specifically, if the levels are decreasing in similar birds, it’s likely a good sign for Seahawks too.
Salish Sea Cormorants and Great Blue Herons
Canadian scientists found that concentrations of PBDE flame retardants in the eggs of blue herons and double-crested cormorants living near Vancouver, BC decreased starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The timing of this decrease coincides with voluntary restrictions and regulations banning PBDE use in the United States and Canada. Washington state passed a ban on these chemicals in 2007. Previously, in the decades leading up to the bans when the chemicals were most in use, levels of PBDEs in the eggs of these two populations of seabirds had been increasing.
San Francisco Bay Bivalves, Surfperch, Terns, and Cormorants
Researchers in California found that PBDEs in multiple species of San Francisco Bay wildlife have decreased dramatically in the ten years since phase-outs and bans on the chemicals went into effect in the early 2000s. The declines were seen in several bivalve species, shiner surfperch, cormorant eggs, and Forster’s tern eggs – a remarkable multi-species finding. It wasn’t long ago that San Francisco Bay was considered one of the “hotspots” for PBDE contamination.
Well, Of Course!
While it might seem obvious that eliminating the source of a chemical means levels of pollution go down, these studies provide more proof that eliminating the use of chemicals in consumer products is good for the environment.
And what’s more interesting about these studies is what didn’t happen as a result of the bans. Despite the business community and chemical industry proclaiming loudly that the bans, if enacted, would mean the end of those businesses selling electronics and mattresses, it’s ten years later and the market has adapted to offer a wide range of products without the chemicals.