I suppose it was only a matter of time.
Just last year I told you that fire-retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were found in a high concentration in a butter sample that researchers had pulled from a grocery-store shelf.
Now, after more than three decades of our dousing our furniture, clothing and electronics in flame-retardant PBDEs, a new study has found that our kids are harboring high levels of these dangerous chemicals in their bodies.
Banned flame retardants banned still showing up in kids
In fact, according to one report, researcher Dr. Brenda Eskenazi, head of the team conducting the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) study, said that only children living on a hazardous waste site in Nicaragua had ever been found to have higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies than did the group of kids she and her team looked at in California.
I suppose this shouldn’t come as a total surprise, since earlier research had already found that American adults have levels of PBDEs that are 20 times higher than those of their European counterparts. However, the two specific types of PBDEs the researchers were looking at in this recent study had not been produced in the United States since 2006.
So, in other words, the environmental contamination from these chemicals is so bad that even five years after the production of them has ceased our children are still being exposed through the dust they breathe in and the food that they eat.
You see, it turns out that PBDEs have staying power. They take a very long time to break down, so they are left hanging around to contaminate our food and air.
And do you want to know the real kicker? A related chemical, deca-BDE, isn’t expected to be completely off the market until 2014. So we are talking about many more years of exposure.
Chemicals have long term health consequences
Although the long-term health consequences of these chemicals are still being investigated, studies have already linked them in kids to
- brain-development issues
- attention problems
- learning problems
- behavior problems
They also can affect adults, causing them to have menstruation problems, low sperm counts, difficulties in getting pregnant, and altered levels of thyroid hormone.
Clearly, the damage has already been done in this case. But let’s hope that as a result of these findings the EPA’s standards for evaluating new flame-retardant chemicals are a lot more stringent than they were in the past.
Saving lives from fire-related deaths only to threaten the health and development of those saved doesn’t seem like a wise trade.