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Flame Retardents & Attention Problems

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Prenatal exposure to some flame retardants that have been widely-used in consumer products is associated with attention problems in children ages three through seven, according to a new study by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.

The researchers are the first to show the effects of prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) on children’s development, during both the preschool and school age periods. The study results appear in the journal of Neurotoxicology and Teratology.

PBDEs are found in textiles, plastics, wiring, and furniture containing polyurethane foam to reduce flammability. Since PBDEs are not chemically bound to these materials, they migrate into the environment over time. Humans are commonly exposed to the chemicals through accidental ingestion of house dust and by eating meat, dairy, and fatty fish with accumulated PBDEs. While PBDEs were phased out in 2004, they remain ubiquitous in the environment.

At ages 3, 4, and 7 years, children with the highest exposure to certain PBDEs had approximately twice the number of maternally-reported attention problems compared to the other children in the study.

The results support previous peer-reviewed epidemiological studies reporting associations between prenatal PBDE exposure and symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity among children.

“These findings reinforce the decision to phase-out the use of PBDEs in consumer products and support the need to develop programs for safely disposing of products containing PBDEs that are still in use,” said author Julie Herbstman, assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences.

 

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