Background: Flame retardants are used to delay the onset of fire in products such as furniture, textiles and electrical appliances. But they have been found at elevated concentrations in the global environment and even in remote locations such as Antarctica. They are toxic, persistent and bioaccumulate in the environment. They cause reproductive health problems, nervous disorders, learning problems in children, affect the unborn and infants. Method and findings: A detailed review of literature was done on Scopus and Science Direct, Pub-Med and Google. Results show that halogenated flame retardants such as PCBs, PBBs, PBDEs, and HBCDs have been banned or restricted in many parts of the world. But despite the ban, they are still being found in high concentrations indicating persistence, absence of regulations or non compliance to regulations. Levels are highest in North America which is consistent with the usage in the continent. Numerous studies have shown that PCBs and PBDEs bioaccumulate and biomagnify in marine mammals, fishes, bivalves, polar bear, birds and human body. Concentrations of PBDE in human milk are highest in North America and lowest in Africa. Even though there is no production of flame retardants in Africa, e-waste recycling is a major source. Levels of PBDEs in indoor dust of Asian countries like China and Korea are the second highest in the world with elevated concentrations in e-waste recycling areas. Replacements for the banned flame retardants such as NBFRs and PFRs have also been detected at high concentrations in the environment. Some of them are as toxic as the replaced ones raising questions about their suitability as alternatives. Conclusion: Toxicological studies are needed before marketing and usage to determine suitable alternative flame retardants.
Abioye Fayiga, Mabel Ipinmoroti