Some new research shows that Mexican-American children living in California have higher levels of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants in their body than children who live in Mexico. The new research shows that California-based kids involved in the study have PBDE levels that are three times higher than their mothers’ levels during pregnancy and a whopping seven times higher than the levels found in the children living in Mexico. In one interview, study leader, Brenda Eskenazi, notes:
“Only Nicaraguan children who lived and worked on hazardous waste sites had higher reported levels of PBDEs in their bodies than the California children.“
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of flame retardant chemicals that are seriously found just about everywhere. Persistent PBDEs are considered a pollutant and are found in many consumer products and household materials, including foam padding used to make furniture, carpets, baby products and cars. PBDEs are also found in plastics, textiles, including children’s clothing and electronics. There was even a PBDE butter contamination – yup butter, in which the culprit was thought to be food wrappers.
This isn’t the first time that PBDE levels in California have been called into question. In fact, studies have shown that PBDE levels in California homes are possibly four to 10 times higher than in other states. Still, these chemicals aren’t bound to California.
The United States has much higher reported levels of these chemicals found in blood, breast milk and house dust than Europe, which of course is consistent with the U.S. using more chemicals than other areas. In smaller amounts though PBDEs are found elsewhere. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), environmental watchdog programs in Europe, Asia, North America and the Arctic, have found traces of various types of PBDEs in human breast milk, fish, aquatic birds and elsewhere in the environment.
Why give a hoot about PBDEs? Well, for one thing, they’ve been linked to many health risks, such as…
- Altered thyroid hormone levels in pregnant women.
- Some researchers guess that PBDEs may be linked to cancer, skin conditions and adverse immune system functions in children.
- Mother’s Milk: Health risks of PBDEs, points out that health risks of PBDEs may include lower IQ, neurological deficits, delays in sensory-motor development, hearing deficits, plus changes in activity levels and fear responses and much more.
- Reduced fertility.
Additionally, PBDEs are persistent. Much like organochlorine pesticides, PBDEs have been known to not only hang around for God knows how long, but to multiple quickly in scope as well.
While levels of PBDE serum concentrations found in kids have long been assumed to be largely linked to exposure in the womb and breast milk, the new data blames the bulk of PBDE serum concentrations in children on postnatal exposure, suggesting that house dust was actually the major source of the California kid’s exposure to the flame retardants.
Soon, we’ll look at some ways to limit your family’s exposure to PBDEs.