Threat to Health Raised by Misuse Of Fire Retardant

Issue 5 and Volume 130.

Threat to Health Raised by Misuse Of Fire Retardant In the last several years, two chemical compounds at first thought to be a fire safety blessing have caused severe problems with the Michigan environment. The two chemicals are polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). Chemically, they are double ring hydrocarbons with some of the molecule’s hydrogen atoms replaced by bromine or chlorine atoms, group VIIA, the halon series. Halons have the desirable effect of breaking the chemical chain reaction known as fire. They also have the effect of creating a tremendously stable compound, one with an estimated bio-degradable life expectancy of 1000 years. Both compounds are insoluble in and heavier than water. This makes them almost impossible to recover when misplaced in the environment. PCB, a liquid fire retardant, has long been used as a dielectric fluid for transformers, capacitors and fluorescent light ballasts and also as a paint…

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