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High levels of bromine agents used in consumer appliances and other products to reduce fire risk have been found in the carcasses of goshawks and other endangered raptor species in Japan.

Researchers from Ehime University and Tochigi Prefectural Museum who made the findings warn that large concentrations of the bromine agents could have adverse health effects in birds, such as a fall in their incubation rate.

“There has been little known about the actual conditions of Japanese raptor species’ contamination by the fireproofing agents. But we have found that the situation is really severe, depending on the species,” said Shinsuke Tanabe, a professor at Ehime University’s coastal environment research institution.

The research involved 47 dead birds from nine raptor species, collected after they were hit by cars or died from other causes in Tochigi Prefecture.

The team measured the concentration of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDE, and hexabromocyclododecane, or HBCD, which are commonly used both in Japan and abroad as flame retardants, in the birds’ pectoral muscles and livers.

The most serious contamination cases were found in goshawks. They contained an average of 7,400 nanograms of PBDE per 1 gram of fat in the liver. In the worst case the concentration was 48,000 nanograms.

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