Higher exposure to some chemicals added to furniture, electronics and numerous other goods to prevent fires may put kids at increased risk of developing aggression and hyperactivity.
The researchers studied the behavioural effects of organophosphate-based flame retardants (OPFRs) on young children.
"When we analysed behaviour assessments and exposure levels, we observed that the children who had more exposure to certain types of the flame retardant were more likely to exhibit externalising behaviours such as aggression, defiance, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying," said corresponding author of the study Molly Kile, Associate Professor at Oregon State University in the US.
The chemicals are added to the products and are not bound in the material, which causes them to be released into indoor environments.
For this study, published in the journal Environmental Health, the research team recruited 92 children between ages three to five to wear a silicone wristband for seven days to measure exposure to flame retardants.
The researchers had parents or primary caregivers complete questionnaires about socio-demographics and the home environment, and preschool teachers completed behaviour assessments for each participating child.
In all, researchers had complete data and wristband results for 69 children.
Their analysis showed that all of the children were exposed to some level of flame retardant.
Children who had higher exposure rates of OFPRs showed less responsible behaviour and more aggression, defiance, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying behaviours.