Prenatal exposure to flame retardants linked to poorer behavioral function in children

January 27, 2016, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Credit: Robert Kraft/public domain

New research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine suggests that prenatal exposure to flame retardants and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) commonly found in the environment may have a lasting effect on a child's cognitive and behavioral development, known as executive function.

The Cincinnati study, published this week in Environmental Research, evaluated levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and PFASs present in mothers during pregnancy and conducted assessments in their children for several years using parent-reported questionnaires to capture impairments in executive function, the mental processes used in focus, working memory, delegation of tasks and emotional control.

Used as synthetic flame retardants in a number of consumer products, including polyurethane foams found in couches and upholstery, carpet pads, electronics, and some textiles, PBDEs have been detected in the environment - entering the air, water and soil from wear and tear of . Humans are exposed to PBDEs via ingestion of dust and diet. PBDEs accumulate in fats, and several studies have indicated that to PDBEs is toxic to the developing nervous system. PFASs, also tested in the study, can be found in water and stain repellant products, including fast-food wraps, cleaning products, firefighting foams, upholstery, and non-stick cookware.

"We examined the relationship between prenatal exposure to PBDEs and PFASs and executive function in children at 5 and 8 years of age," said Ann Vuong, DrPH, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati in the Department of Environmental Health. "The findings suggest that maternal serum concentrations of PBDEs and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), one of the most commonly found PFASs in human blood, may be associated with poorer executive functioning in school-age children."

The study sample consisted of 256 mother-child pairs enrolled in the Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) Study, an ongoing prospective birth cohort in the Greater Cincinnati area. It includes a collaborative group of investigators from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Simon Fraser University, Brown University, and the University of Cincinnati, who seek to quantify the impact of low-level prenatal and childhood exposures to environmental chemicals on health, growth, and neurobehavioral outcomes. The HOME study has followed its participants from approximately 16 weeks gestation to eight years of age, examining their associations with endocrine function, cognition, learning and memory, motor skills, attention, executive function, and behavior.

"Given the persistence of PBDEs and PFASs in the environment and in human bodies, the observed deficits in may have a large impact at the population level. Further research is needed to understand and clarify the population impact of their potential neurotoxicity," said Vuong.

Explore further: Exposure to common flame retardants may contribute to attention problems in children

Related Stories

Exposure to common flame retardants may contribute to attention problems in children

October 7, 2015
Prenatal exposure to some flame retardants that have been widely-used in consumer products is associated with attention problems in children ages three through seven, according to a new study by researchers at the Columbia ...

Flame retardants may be toxic to children

May 6, 2013
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 ...

Flame retardant exposure linked to lower IQs

May 28, 2014
A new study involving Simon Fraser University researchers has found that prenatal exposure to flame retardants can be significantly linked to lower IQs and greater hyperactivity in five-year old children. The findings are ...

Flame retardants linked to neurodevelopmental delays in children

November 15, 2012
Prenatal and childhood exposure to flame retardant compounds are linked to poorer attention, fine motor coordination and IQ in school-aged children, a finding by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, that ...

Flame retardants measured in pregnant Aussies

August 4, 2014
Australians have more traces of flame retardants in their bloodstream than Europeans and Asians but fewer than in North Americans, according to a study by local and international researchers.

Breastfeeding may expose infants to toxic chemicals

August 20, 2015
A widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and interference with immune function—perfluorinated alkylate substances, or PFASs—appears to build up in infants by 20%-30% for each month they're breastfed, ...

Recommended for you

Consuming protein supplements with meals may work better for weight control

April 25, 2018
A new systematic review of available evidence appearing in Nutrition Reviews indicates that consuming protein supplements with meals may be more effective at promoting weight control than consuming supplements between meals ...

Potential for sun damage should be carefully balanced with need for vitamin D in children, say scientists

April 24, 2018
Scientists at King's College London are encouraging parents and carers to ensure even more rigorous protection of children against the harmful effects of the sun. The comments follow a study which has suggested that children ...

Millennials aren't getting the message about sun safety and the dangers of tanning

April 24, 2018
Many millennials lack knowledge about the importance of sunscreen and continue to tan outdoors in part because of low self-esteem and high rates of narcissism that fuel addictive tanning behavior, a new study from Oregon ...

People expect their memory to fade as early as their 50s

April 24, 2018
People across the UK expect their memory to worsen in their 50s, according to new research from Heriot-Watt University.

Aging: The natural stress reliever for many women

April 24, 2018
While some research suggests that midlife is a dissatisfying time for women, other studies show that women report feeling less stressed and enjoy a higher quality of life during this period.

Napping and teenage learning

April 24, 2018
Teenagers and sleep. It's certainly a passionate subject for many American parents, and those in China. University of Delaware's Xiaopeng Ji is investigating the relationship between midday-napping behaviors and neurocognitive ...

0 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.