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Water Bureau OKs Fire Retardant Drops in Portland’s Bull Run Watershed

As fires continue in Portland, Washington, the Portland Water Bureau has approved dumping fire retardants on its Bull Run Watershed. The public wasn’t aware of the plan until officials admitted it after repeated inquiries by The Oregonian/OregonLive. Ironically, the U.S. Forest Service has repeatedly been sued over its use of toxic fire retardants, which opponents say are “ineffective and wasteful” — not to mention that the retardants don’t stop fires; they only slow them, and even then, only when the entire area is drenched with them.

The health risks of flame retardants to both humans and wildlife are firmly established. Studies show that they damage children’s brains: For every tenfold increase in prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) — a fire retardant chemical — there was a 3.7-point decline in IQ test scores in children. Research also suggests that fire retardants play a part in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Flame retardants are also linked to numerous cancers, and as thyroid cancers rise in direct proportion to exposure to flame retardants, the fact that Portland would approve dumping this stuff on its water supply completely baffles me. It seems inconceivable that Portland — where citizens have fought adding fluoride to its water — would even consider such a thing, especially in light of the fact that the state has already banned five flame retardants.

The fact that Portland officials had to have it wormed out of them before the public knew they’d approved this move is telling in itself: These officials KNOW the harm fire retardants can do. So why did they approve it?