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devils.jpgTim Dub photograph

Scientists have been shocked to find high levels of potentially carcinogenic flame retardant chemicals in Tasmanian devils, a discovery certain to fuel a global campaign to ban their use, according to Matthew Denholm, writing today in The Australian.

The Australian has obtained, under Freedom of Information, preliminary results of tests ordered by the Tasmanian Government on chemicals found in fat tissue from 16 devils.

They show surprisingly high concentrations of toxic chemicals used in flame retardants commonly found in computers, white goods, carpets and foam in bedding and furniture.

Scientists yesterday said more research was needed to establish if the chemicals helped trigger devil facial tumour disease, a rare communicable cancer that threatens to drive the carnivore to extinction.

The International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network said the findings also raised concerns for human health.

IPEN co-ordinator Mariann Lloyd-Smith said the findings added weight to “a global push to ban flame retardants, some of which have been linked to reproductive disorders and cancers in animals and humans.”