Saturday September 5, 2008
(foodconsumer.org) -- A study of chemical fire retardants in parents
and their children showed toddlers and pre-schoolers had 3 times more
the neurotoxic pollutants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers
(PBDEs) in their blood than their mothers'.
The study conducted by the
Environmental Working Group suggests that U.S. children age 1 to 4
bear the heaviest burden of flame retardant pollution in the
The study also showed the fire
retardant Deca, which has already banned in Europe but still
unregulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was found
more often and at higher levels in U.S. children than their mothers.
Early in 2003, the nonprofit
environmental health advocating organization published its test
results showing breast milk from 20 American mothers contained
fire-retardants at levels that were 75 times higher than that from
"U.S. chemical law leaves children
unprotected from toxic chemicals that other industrialized countries
long ago banned," said Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior analyst at EWG
and co-author of the study.
"It's time for real, comprehensive
reform that puts the health of children first," Lunder added.
To be specific, the average levels of
PBDEs in the blood of children were about 62 parts per billion (ppb),
compared to 25 ppb in their mothers. In comparison, early studies
showed children in Span and Norway had levels 6 to 13 times lower.
These toxic fire retardants are present
in many household items including furniture, sofas, televisions,
computers and carpet, all of which could expose children to the
pollutants at levels exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency's recommended safe level.
Carpet could be one of most significant
sources of flame retardant pollution, a health observer affiliated
with foodconsumer.org suggested. Early studies showed Florida where
carpet is less commonly used has the lowest levels of flame
retardants found in houses in the state.
Children who touch or use items with
flame retardants or live in a house with flame retardants-treated
carpet can ingest the pollutants and other toxins when they put their
fingers, toys in their mouths or or eat food picked by unwashed
"It's well documented that U.S.
adults are more exposed to chemical fire retardants than adults in
other countries, but these findings show that young children are at
even higher risk," said Anila Jacob, MD, EWG senior scientist
and study co-author.
"Parents want to protect their
children, but once they are old enough to crawl or walk, they are
more vulnerable to exposure to these and other toxic chemicals."
"These chemicals are everywhere -
in food, in our homes and schools," said Laurie Yung of
Missoula, Mont., whose 3-year-old son was tested for the pollutants.
"We need laws to protect us from
exposure not only to these chemicals, but that will make sure
chemicals are safe for kids before they’re allowed on the market."
Early animal tests demonstrated that
flame retardants PBDEs can change behavior permanently. Because of
the adverse effects, PCBs, which were the old generation of flame
retardants were banned in 1970s. PBDEs replace PCBs as fire
retardants, but chemists know that these two groups of chemicals
share similar chemical structures that may determine similar
Children are believed to be more
susceptible to the toxicity of the flame retardants because they are
not mature yet.