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Association of Flame Retardants and Child's Neurodevelopment

by Anne Trueman on  December 15, 2012 at 11:14 AM Health In Focus   - G J E 4
The exposure to flame retardants in prenatal or childhood period can result in retardation of motor coordination and IQ, and poor attention in school-going kids, according to a recent study.
Association of Flame Retardants and Child's Neurodevelopment
Association of Flame Retardants and Child's Neurodevelopment
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Flame retardants are defined as the chemical compounds used in textiles coating, thermoplastics and thermosets, which act by resisting or inhibiting fire eruption. Scientists tried to determine the influence of flame retardants on the development of kids.

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The researchers from the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health conducted a research to assess the impact of flame retardants on the neurodevelopment of young children.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and stressed on the PBDEs or polybrominated diphenyl ethers. It is a class of 'persistent, endocrine-disrupting compounds' commonly found in electronics, foam furniture, carpets, upholstery and other consumer items. These chemicals percolate in the environment and are either ingested or inhaled via dirt or dust, and gets accumulated in human fat cells.

During the study, the scientists collected blood samples from 279 expectant mothers during pregnancy or at the time of delivery and from 272 children when they were 7 years old.

The samples were analyzed at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

The attention levels, fine motor coordination and IQ (perceptual reasoning, verbal comprehension, working memory and processing speed) were assessed with the aid of standardized tests.

Questionnaires were given to mothers and teachers containing questions pertaining to children's skills, attention and behavior.

Brenda Eskenazi, Jennifer and Brian Maxwell Professor of Maternal and Child Health and Epidemiology said, "This is the largest and most comprehensive study to date to examine neurobehavioral development in relation to body burden measures of PBDE flame retardants."

They added, "We measured PBDEs both in the mothers during pregnancy and in the children themselves. It shows that there is a relationship of in utero and childhood levels to decrements in fine motor function, attention and IQ."

Heather Stapleton, the Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Duke University and one of the leading experts on human exposure to flame retardant chemicals, mentioned, "This new study is very important because it confirms earlier published research on the neurodevelopmental effects of PBDE exposure."

The Berkeley research adds a new concern over the chemicals prevalent in the households of California.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) usage increased in 1970s in California and currently it can be found in the blood sample of 97 percent of American residents while in Californian inhabitants have twice the national average.

Stapleton stated, "Within the range of PBDE exposure levels, 5 percent of the U.S. population has very high exposure levels, so the health impact on children in these extremes could be even more significant."

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have three formulations namely pentaBDE, octaBDE and decaBDE.

Both the Penta- and Octa- formulations are strictly banned in most of the states of United States.

Prof. Eskenazi, the Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health (CERCH) at UC Berkeley, mentioned, "Even though pentaPBDEs are not being used anymore, old couches with foam that is disintegrating will still release PBDEs."       

He further said, "These chemicals will be in our homes for many years to come, so it's important to take steps to reduce exposure."

The research was financially aided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Previous studies have shown that kids from the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) had seven times more concentration of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as compared to the children of Mexico.

In addition, studies at CHAMACOS have revealed that polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are associated with adverse effects such as low birth weight, decreased fertility, alterations in thyroid hormone levels, etc. 

Other smaller studies have shown the association of prenatal exposure to PBDEs with mental and physical development in young children.

Source: Medindia
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