Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, linked to cancer and neurological damage, have been found in remote sites in Indonesia, Nepal and Tasmania, Indiana University scientists reported Tuesday.
The researchers used a novel but effective sampling technique of measuring concentrations of the chemicals in the bark of trees around the world, which absorb compounds in both vapor and particle phases, a university release said.
"These findings illustrate further that flame retardants are ubiquitous pollutants and are found all around the world, not only in biota and humans but also in plants," researcher Amina Salamova said.
While the highest concentrations were found at an urban site near Toronto in Canada, the second-highest concentration of one type of flame retardant, Dechlorane Plus, was found at a remote site at Bukit Kototabang in Indonesia, researchers said.
The cause of the relatively high concentrations at that site is unknown, researchers said, but added they suspect it may be near a source of the chemical.
Because of a link with diseases, the production and use of certain flame retardants has been restricted in North America and the European Union.