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Smallmouth Bass in Lake Erie Poisoned by Fire Retardants

Apr 28 | 2016  by

By Beth Florkowski of Fausone Bohn, LLP posted in Environmental Law on Thursday, April 28, 2016.

Paul Bohn, Esq.

Researchers have found potentially dangerous levels of flame retardants (PBDEs) among smallmouth bass in Lake Erie. Once thought to be a problem of the past after the PBDE chemical was phased out of production in 2013, we have since learned that it is not easily biodegradable and accumulates on the lake floor.

This becomes a problem when those despised zebra mussels come into play. As you know, the mussels reproduce at an extremely high rate. They are able to do this by consuming anything and everything on the lake floor and in the water, including the PBDE chemical.

Large amounts of these contaminated mussels are consumed by certain bottom-feeders who are then consumed by organisms higher up in the food chain; the process known as bioaccumulation. PBDEs are a known to cause human health concerns, most notably in association with hypothyroidism. Studies have also linked the chemical to lower IQ and increased hyperactivity among children when exposure occurs while still in the womb. Finally, it has been linked to cancer in adults.

My worry is that the Lake Erie smallmouth bass is acting as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, where fish populations in local lakes and rivers are experiencing the same contamination.