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Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT) Organic Pollutants

Persistent, bioaccumulative organic pollutants are organic chemicals that are resistant to degradation (long-lived in the environment), and characterized by low water solubility and a strong affinity for organic material, which means they readily sorb to soil and sediment and partition into biological tissues. These contaminants can bioaccumulate to levels that pose a threat to human health and the environment. They are associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including effects on the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, and cancer.

The Canada-US Binational Toxics Strategy has identified 10 organic chemicals or chemical families (groups of related chemicals) as priority “persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic” (PBT) pollutants. These include aldrin/dieldrin, mirex, chlordane, DDT and its degradates DDD and DDE, and toxaphene (historically used organochlorine pesticides); benzo(a)pyrene (a combustion byproduct); hexachlorobenzene (a pesticide and industrial chemical); octachlorostyrene (an industrial by-product); PCBs (industrial coolants and lubricants); and dioxins and furans (a family of combustion and industrial by-products).

In recent years, there has been increasing recognition that polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated chemicals such as perfluorooctanyl sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) are widespread PBTs in the environment.

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