Leisa Toms, Jochen Mueller, Munro Mortimer, Robert Symons, Gavin Stevenson, Caroline Gaus - National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006
ISBN 0 642 55314 9
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a common class of brominated flame retardants, are a ubiquitous part of our built environment, and for many years have contributed to improved public safety by reducing the flammability of everyday goods.
Recently, PBDEs have come under increased international attention because of their potential to impact upon the environment and human health. Some PBDE compounds have been nominated for possible inclusion on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, to which Australia is a Party. Work under the Stockholm Convention has demonstrated the capacity of some PBDEs to persist and accumulate in the environment and to be carried long distances. Much is unknown about the impact of PBDEs on living organisms, however recent studies show that some PBDEs can inhibit growth in colonies of plankton and algae and depress the reproduction of zooplankton. Laboratory mice and rats have also shown liver disturbances and damage to developing nervous systems as a result of exposure to PBDEs.
In 2004, the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources began three studies to examine levels of PBDEs in aquatic sediments, indoor environments and human blood, as knowledge about PBDEs in Australia was very limited. The aim of these studies was to improve this knowledge base so that governments were in a better position to consider appropriate management actions.
Due to the high costs for laboratory analysis of PBDEs, the number of samples collected for each study was limited and so caution is required when interpreting the findings. Nevertheless, these studies will provide governments with an indication of how prevalent PBDEs are in the Australian population and the environment and will also contribute to international knowledge about these chemicals.
The Department of the Environment and Water Resources will be working closely with other government agencies, industry and the community to investigate any further action that may be required to address PBDEs in Australia.