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Chemical fire retardants found in Arctic reindeer dung

  • Author: Alaska News
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 22, 2015

Chemical fire retardants are so ubiquitous that now they're even present in the poop of reindeer in the remote Arctic, scientists have found.

Reindeer at Ny-Ålesund, a town on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, have been producing dung laden with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs), chemicals they pick up after munching on moss that holds concentrations of the material, according to a study by scientists from China's National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center and reported by Discovery News.

The PDBEs are found in the soil and absorbed in high concentrations into the moss that reindeer eat, said the study, published in the journal Chemosphere.

"Once persistent organic pollutants are ingested into (the) body by animals, they are hard to be degraded, owing to their persistence, and one of the main elimination pathways from (the) body is believed to be via feces," the study authors wrote, Discovery News reported. The reindeer dung then puts more PDBEs into the soil, where they are absorbed by the mosses and eaten again by the animals, Discovery News reported.

PBDEs are found in a wide variety of consumer products, including textiles, electronics and furniture, according to a fact sheet from the Environmental Protection Agency. They have been shown to be endocrine disruptors in animals, and they have been found in air, sediments, surface water, fish, marine animals -- and in people's bodies and human breast milk, the EPA fact sheet said.