Flame retardant a health risk to children: study
The Canadian Press: May 29, 2014
Debates over the toxicity of chemicals like lead and mercury have long been extinguished, but mounting research into flame retardant has ignited a deeper probe of man-made chemicals.
Learning deficits and decreased IQ in children has been linked to synthetic chemicals once commonly used in household items to prevent fire, according to a new study out of British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University.
The study, published online Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found a 4.5 drop in IQ and greater hyperactivity in five-year-olds was associated with their mothers’ exposure to flame retardants during early pregnancy and after the babies were born.
The research joins five other international studies highlighting the potential dangers of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, known as PDBEs, which were once widely used in products like couches, carpets and car seats.
“Now we’ve seen this pattern of toxicity with low level environmental chemicals – lead, mercury, now fire retardants – let’s not do it again,” said SFU health sciences Prof. Bruce Lanphear, one of the study’s authors.
“Let’s set a regulatory framework in place to make sure these products, these chemicals, are safe before they’re marketed to children and pregnant women.”
The study started 10 years ago as realization donned that chemical compounds throughout the consumer market had little research answering questions about their safety. The researchers tested blood, urine and hair samples of 309 women and their children in Cincinnati, Ohio, starting from 16 weeks of pregnancy and until their children were five.
In 2004, manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada began voluntarily withdrawing PBDEs from their formulas, while further concerns over harmful effects on wildlife and mammals prompted a United Nations body to ban two of three commercial PBDEs in 2009.
Two problems, however, still persist. Many household goods produced over the past three decades remain in homes and offices with potential to leach toxins, while the industry is replacing the old synthetics with new without accompanying research.
“It’s not simply about the flame retardants,” Lanphear said. “If we replace them with a chemical that hasn’t been sufficiently studied and it turns out to be toxic, have we really solved the problem?”
(read the full article at The Globe & Mail)
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