Flame Retardant PBDE Causes This Disturbing Effect On Childhood Development, Research Indicates

Researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, which is part of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, have demonstrated some daunting effects of prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) on childhood development. PBDEs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are a class of brominated hydrocarbons used as flame retardants. PBDEs are all around us in fabrics, upholstery, and polyurethane foam, according to the EPA.

According to Medical News Today, the use of PBDEs has been phased out in the last decade, but they still remain all over, and our exposure to them is still great. Making matters worse, PBDEs bioaccumulate in the food chain, so they really aren’t going anywhere. They’ve been detected in fish, surface water, and even in the air.

Now, researchers have linked them to attention deficit and impulse control problems in children. The EPA even reports that PBDEs are possible endocrine disruptors.

According to the CDC, 11 percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2014, and ADHD was the primary reason for 9 million emergency department visits in 2012.

For the study, 210 mother-child pairs were taken from a cohort from the World Trade Center Study that followed the disaster on September 11, 2001. The researchers assessed children’s behavior beginning at age three and every year after until age seven. They determined PBDE exposure at birth by analyzing cord blood samples. The children with the highest exposure to the flame retardant had double the attention problems of their less-exposed peers, even after the researchers controlled variables including age, maternal IQ, ethnicity, mother’s marital status, maternal demoralization, and prenatal exposure to cigarettes. Consequently, the study asserted that exposure to PBDEs before birth might lead to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in 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,” senior author and assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences Julie Herbstman said.

The government’s Tox Town website explained a partial explanation of how a pregnant woman might be exposed to PBDEs.

“Indoors, you can be exposed by breathing dust or air contaminated with PBDEs, including in rooms with computers, other electronic devices such as television sets, or upholstered furniture.”

It also lists drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated high fat fish, or living near a hazardous waste site. If your work involves recycling computers, disposing of electronics, construction, waste disposal, or upholstering, you would also be more likely to have greater exposure.

In the search for a non-toxic flame retardant, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin revealed an all new, reportedly completely safe flame retardant that won’t accumulate over time. What’s it made of? Strangely, it’s made up entirely of dopamine. Yes, dopamine, the neurotransmitter in our brains that is linked to reward and pleasure. The developers of this new flame retardant say they literally put dopamine into a beaker of water, changed the pH only slightly, and then the dopamine spontaneously makes longer chain structures that adhere to surfaces, and are reportedly, like PBDEs, resistant to burning. Unlike PBDEs, this new flame retardant should not harm childhood development from prenatal exposure.

[Photo via Pixabay]