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.
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
The study was
published in the journal Environmental
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
The attention levels,
fine motor coordination and IQ (perceptual reasoning, verbal comprehension,
working memory and processing speed) were assessed with the aid of standardized
given to mothers and teachers containing questions pertaining to children's
skills, attention and behavior.
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
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
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.
"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."
diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have three formulations namely pentaBDE, octaBDE and
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
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