British Columbia

Expeditions:Support the End of Harmful Flame Retardants

During the British Columbia expedition, Jean-Michel Cousteau and his Ocean Futures Society team discovered an alarming fact: many populations of killer whales are contaminated with many toxic, synthetic chemicals, including a class of flame retardants known as PBDEs.

These flame retardants are in use because the State of California requires that some products be flame resistant, for example, furniture and many children's products. It is now known that these chemicals leak into the environment through the air, are carried by dust and water and enter the food chain. Like their banned relatives, the PCBs, flame retardants persist in the environment, concentrate over time, are toxic, with likely adverse health effects on both orcas and humans, and are now found globally. Their presence in the environment is doubling every five years.

Some of these chemicals have been banned, but they still show up in our homes, environment, workplaces, and in our bodies. They've been linked to lower IQs in children, reduced fertility, and increased cancer risks. In California, children carry flame retardant chemicals in their bodies at concentrations amongst the highest in the world. And worst of all, they're not working to prevent fires as promised!

"I'm always careful to protect my son, said Holly S. Lohuis, a marine biologist with Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Future Society whose son was biomonitored. "I am heart- broken that at age four his levels of flame retardants were like those of an industrial worker."

The science is clear that these chemicals represent enormous potential harm to the development of both animals and children. We cannot wait to act. Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team are joining forces with decision-makers in government and industry to address the public's demand for protection. It's time to find ways to prevent such chemicals from entering the environment in the first place, to find alternatives, and to anticipate problems before they occur. We cannot wait to find a cure for dangerous products after they are in the environment and in us.