High levels of potentially toxic flame retardants in California pregnant women

A new study finds that pregnant women in Northern California have the highest PBDE flame retardant exposures reported to date among pregnant women worldwide. It also describes some of the first evidence from humans that certain flame retardants may interfere with thyroid hormone signaling during pregnancy, which is critical to fetal brain development. The study, described as one of the most extensive to date on flame retardant exposures in pregnant women, appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Ami Zota and colleagues note that the flame retardant chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been widely used in furniture foam, plastics, carpets, consumer electronics, wire insulation, and other products since the 1970s. Although California banned manufacture and import of certain PBDEs in 2004, human exposure continues from old products, house dust, food, and other sources. Studies suggest that PBDE exposure during pregnancy may disrupt thyroid function, with adverse effects on normal development of the fetus's brain that persist throughout life, and also have adverse effects on the mother.

In their study of 25 second-trimester pregnant women in California, the researchers found the highest-ever levels of certain PBDEs among pregnant women worldwide. The high exposure most likely was the unintended consequence of California's furniture flammability standards, which manufacturers have met since 1975 by adding PBDE's to foam in upholstered furniture, Zota and colleagues said. While preliminary, the study also found a link between PBDE levels and levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone, a substance produced in the brain, that helps regulate activity of the thyroid gland.

More information: “Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hydroxylated PBDEs (OH-PBDEs), and measures of thyroid function in second trimester pregnant women in California” Environmental Science & Technology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study links reduced fertility to flame retardant exposure

Jan 26, 2010

Women with higher blood levels of PBDEs, a type of flame retardant commonly found in household consumer products, took longer to become pregnant compared with women who have lower PBDE levels, according to a new study by ...

Study documents PBDE flame retardant levels in children

Apr 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A group of 264 Mexican-American children living in California had higher levels of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants in their blood serum than 283 counterparts living in Mexico, according ...

Flame Retardant Exposure Linked to House Dust

Dec 30, 2004

Common house dust may be an important source of a potentially dangerous class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), according to an exploratory study* by researchers at the National Institute of Standards ...

Recommended for you

The hunt for botanicals

7 hours ago

Herbal medicine can be a double-edged sword and should be more rigorously investigated for both its beneficial and harmful effects, say researchers writing in a special supplement of Science.

Mozambique decriminalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

9 hours ago

Mozambique has passed a law permitting women to terminate unwanted pregnancies under specified conditions, a move hailed by activists in a country where clandestine abortions account for a large number of maternal deaths.

Infertility, surrogacy in India

9 hours ago

Infertility is a growing problem worldwide. A World Health Organization report estimates that 60-to-80 million couples worldwide currently suffer from infertility.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.