THURSDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Fetal or infant exposures to flame retardant chemicals that lurk in furniture, carpets and other household items could adversely affect a child's development, a new study suggests.
Exposure to the chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), was associated with a higher risk for physical and mental impairment when children reach school age.
"We observed associations of in utero and/or childhood exposure to these flame retardants and fine motor coordination, attention and IQ in school-age children," said study lead author Brenda Eskenazi, a professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology, and director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
PBDEs have long been recognized as potentially harmful "endocrine disrupters," which can be inhaled or ingested (via dust) and take up residence in fat cells. Eskenazi's team said the new study is the largest investigation of PBDE's impact on neurodevelopment to date.
According to background information supplied by the authors, PBDEs were first added to furniture, carpets, electronic goods and other consumer items in the 1970s in an effort to make products more flame-resistant. As their potential effects on health became better understood, however, many states moved to ban the chemicals. Nevertheless, PBDEs still can be found in many items manufactured before 2004, and exposures over the past few decades mean that 97 percent of U.S. residents carry blood levels of the chemicals.
To explore the potential impact of PBDE exposure among children, between 1999 and 2000 the authors collected blood samples from nearly 280 women over the age of 18, either while they were pregnant or at the time of their child's birth. Samples were also subsequently collected from 272 of the women's offspring when the children all t
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