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Chemicals used as fire retardants could be harmful, UC-Riverside researchers say
Date:12/10/2007

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), chemicals used as fire retardants, can be found in numerous items in the home, such as the television, computer, toaster and the sofa. Now, as reported in a KNBC story on Nov. 28, they are being found in alarming concentrations, in human blood and breast milk a potentially major concern for human health.

In addition, these industrial chemicals have been associated with cases of feline hyperthyroidism, a potentially fatal condition in cats.

UC Riverside scientists interviewed for the KNBC story have done research using rat tissue that shows that PBDEs disrupt mechanisms that are responsible for releasing hormones in the body. Moreover, their work has shown that like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), whose manufacture in the U.S. was discontinued in 1977, PBDEs alter calcium signaling in the brain a critical mechanism for transmitting information between and within brain cells, for learning and memory, and for regulating the release of hormones in the body.

Long-term exposures to PBDEs may pose a human health risk, especially to infants and toddlers who are more likely to ingest household dust or acquire these chemicals through mothers milk, said Margarita Curras-Collazo, an associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience and one of the scientists interviewed for the KNBC story. How much PBDE in the body is considered safe is yet to be determined and will require further federal and state research funding.

PBDEs, which have different forms based on the number and location of bromine atoms they contain, closely resemble the molecular structure of PCBs. Because they can slow the spread of a fire, PBDEs currently are being produced for use as flame-retarding compounds in a variety of consumer goods, including electrical appliances, building materials, mattress foams and upho
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert

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