Toxic flame retardants have been turning up in our waterways since at least 1981 when scientists discovered the persistent toxic compounds known as PBDEs polluting a Swedish river. Since then, a whole alphabet soup of flame retardants that cause cancer, hormone disruption, and other toxic effects have been detected in waters and wildlife around the world.
But how are they getting there? Scientists have been puzzling over this question.
Flame retardants are used indoors, in products like couches so it’s not obvious how a toxic chemical could be making its way from our couches to our rivers.
Now they have an answer thanks to a new peer-reviewed study authored by Washington Toxics Coalition Staff Scientist Erika Schreder and published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The first-of-its kind study has now identified the link between the indoor chemicals and the outdoor pollution: home laundry wash water.