Flame retardant chemicals, known as PBDE, found in some common household items, such as carpeting, baby strollers, and certain types of mattresses, may be linked to cognitive problems in children, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
“Because PBDEs exist in the home and office environment as they are contained in old furniture, carpet pads, foams and electronics, the study raises further concern about their toxicity in developing children,” said lead author and assistant professor Aimin Chen, MD, PhD.
What are PBDEs?
The flame retardant chemicals are called polybrominated diphenyl ethers and are used by manufacturers in plastics, automobiles, textiles, and insulation as a flame retardant. Because they are not bound to the product they are used in, they can seep out into these products, warns the EPA.
PBDE Study Details
Dr. Chen and his colleagues analyzed blood samples of 309 pregnant women with respect to PBDE levels, and continued to follow their children for a period of five years. On an annual basis, until the children were five years of age, the researchers conducted both intelligence and behavior tests.
PBDE Study Results
The findings of the study are concerning. Higher levels of PBDEs in the mothers’ blood were associated with lower scores of intelligence and hyperactivity in their children. Specifically, a ten-times increase in the moms’ PBDE level was associated with about a four point IQ shortfall in their five-year-old children.
“We found maternal exposure to PBDEs, a group of brominated flame retardants mostly withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2004, was associated with deficits in child cognition at age 5 years and hyperactivity at ages 2-5 years,” Dr. Chen said.
PBDE Study Impact
While PBDEs are not used by manufacturers as a flame retardant in the U.S. currently (they were withdrawn from the U.S. in 2004), they are still found in many consumer goods purchased several years ago. Because PBDEs do not break down easily or quickly, they are not very biodegradable, so they can transfer to a developing fetus. Scientists think that PBDEs in humans can be embedded in our body lipids and tissues when inhaled, making it possible to transfer to unborn children.
Although Chen’s findings are considered preliminary since no cause-and-effect was proven and the findings haven’t yet been published in a peer-review journal, there are two other large studies in the U.S. that found links between flame retardants prenatal exposure and reduced IQ and development deficiencies that makes Chen’s findings more unsettling.
It is important to note that PlushBeds natural latex mattresses do NOT contain PBDEs. In fact, our natural latex mattresses use wool as a natural fire barrier!
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