Flame Retardants Found in Many Grocery-Store Foods

A new study of grocery items like fish, meat, and dairy products revealed that virtually all of them contain detectable levels of PBDEs, human-made chemical fire retardants used in carpeting, electronics, and furniture that may or may not cause cancer. (We’ll get to the “may or may not” part in a second.) PBDEs were found in “all food containing animal fats,” said Arnold Schecter, coauthor of the study, which appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. “Although these findings are preliminary, they suggest that food is a major route of intake for PBDEs.” As PBDEs are relatively new, their health effects on human beings have not been conclusively studied. They have, however, been shown to screw up the neurological, reproductive, and hormonal systems of lab animals. The European Union has banned two types of PBDEs and is considering banning a third. But the levels found in common foods were very low, so you’re probably okay. We hope.