Flame retardants may be toxic to children

Chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been used for decades to reduce fires in everyday products such as baby strollers, carpeting and electronics. A new study to be presented on Monday, May 6, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting shows that prenatal exposure to the flame retardants is associated with lower intelligence and hyperactivity in early childhood.

"In animal studies, PBDEs can disrupt and cause hyperactivity and learning problems," said lead author Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "Our study adds to several other human studies to highlight the need to reduce exposure to PBDEs in pregnant women."

Dr. Chen and his colleagues collected blood samples from 309 pregnant women enrolled in a study at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to measure PBDE levels. They also performed intelligence and behavior tests on the women's children annually until they were 5 years old.

"We found to PBDEs, a group of mostly withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2004, was associated with deficits in child cognition at age 5 years and hyperactivity at ages 2-5 years," Dr. Chen said. A 10-fold increase in maternal PBDEs was associated with about a 4 point IQ deficit in 5-year-old children.

Even though PBDEs, except Deca-BDEs, are not used as a flame retardant in the United States anymore, they are found on many consumer products bought several years ago. In addition, the chemicals are not easily biodegradable, so they remain in human tissues and are transferred to the developing fetus.

"Because PBDEs exist in the home and office environment as they are contained in old furniture, carpet pads, foams and electronics, the study raises further concern about their toxicity in developing children," Dr. Chen concluded.

More information: To view the abstract, "Cognitive Deficits and Behavior Problems in Children with Prenatal PBDE Exposure," go to www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS13L1_3550.8

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study finds flame retardants at high levels in pet dogs

Apr 26, 2011

Indiana University scientists have found chemical flame retardants in the blood of pet dogs at concentrations five to 10 times higher than in humans, but lower than levels found in a previous study of cats.

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 ...

Recommended for you

Crankier babies may get more TV time

Apr 14, 2014

(HealthDay)—Fussy and demanding babies are likely to spend slightly more time plopped in front of a TV or computer screen when they're toddlers than are "easier" babies, new research finds.

User comments