Flame retardants are compounds added to materials such as textiles, plastics, wiring and furniture containing polyurethane foam to prevent the spread of fire. They are called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Since PBDEs are not chemically bound to materials, they migrate into the environment over time.
Humans are commonly exposed to the PBDEs through accidental ingestion of house dust and by eating meat, dairy, and fatty fish with accumulated chemicals. Prenatal exposure to certain common flame retardants may contribute to attention problem in young children, revealed a new research. The study findings highlight the effects of prenatal exposure to PBDEs on children's development during both preschool and school age periods.
Study senior author Julie Herbstman, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said, "These findings support the need to develop programs for safely disposing of products containing PBDEs that are still in use."
For the study, researchers followed 210 mother-child pairs from birth through early childhood. Beginning at age three, the team assessed child behavior using a standardized rating scale, repeating the test ever year through age seven.
Umbilical cord blood samples were analyzed for PBDEs to assess prenatal exposure to the chemicals.
At ages three, four and seven years, children with the highest exposure to some PBDEs were observed to have approximately twice the number of maternally-reported attention problems compared to other children in the study.
The results appeared in the Neurotoxicology and Teratology.