News Release

CICEET Awards $299,000 for New Tool to Detect Toxic Pollutants

January 28, 2009

DURHAM, N.H. -- The UNH/NOAA Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET) has awarded $299,000 to test a new way of detecting PBDEs and other emerging toxic pollutants and predict the threat they pose to marine life. The grant goes to a research team based at the University of Rhode Island that is working in partnership with the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) to demonstrate this new technology and make the coastal resource management community aware of the project’s progress and results.

PBDEs (polybrominated diphenylethers) are used widely as flame retardants in the production of consumer products such as clothing, carpeting, upholstered furniture, computers, and hair dryers. While chemical manufacturers say PBDEs can reduce by 45 percent the risk of death and injury by fire, they are part of a group of “emerging contaminants,” which include triclosan and nonyphenols used in personal care products, that can act as endocrine disruptors or carcinogens, thereby affecting aquatic life and ultimately, human health. Detecting the presence of PBDEs in coastal environments and assessing their “bioavailability”—the degree to which they can be absorbed by marine life—is critical to developing management strategies to reduce the threat they pose to people and ecosystems. However, traditional methods of detection tend to be difficult to deploy and lack the capacity to measure bioavailability.

These CICEET-sponsored researchers are developing and validating a fast, cost effective, field-based method to detect bioavailable concentrations of PBDE, triclosan, and nonyphenols using a passive sampling system. Sampler prototypes will be attached to buoys around the northern portion of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, including a site in the Narragansett Bay NERR.

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With a grant from CICEET, researchers are testing a new way to detecting bioavailable concentrations of toxic pollutants at Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (shown above). The reserve is one of 27 sites in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) that serve as platforms to test CICEET-sponsored monitoring technology.