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Prenatal exposure to flame-retardant compounds affects neurodevelopment of young children
Date:1/19/2010

January 19, 2010 -- Prenatal exposure to ambient levels of flame retardant compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is associated with adverse neurodevelopmental effects in young children, according to researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

The study is online in Environmental Health Perspectives and will be released in the April 2010 print issue.

PBDEs are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and widely used flame-retardant compounds that are applied to a broad array of textiles and consumer products, including mattresses, upholstery, building materials, and electronic equipment. Because the compounds are additives rather than chemically bound to consumer products, they can be released into the environment. Human exposure may occur through dietary ingestion or through inhalation of dust containing PBDEs.

The researchers found that children with higher concentrations of PBDEs in their umbilical cord blood at birth scored lower on tests of mental and physical development between the ages of one and six. Developmental effects were particularly evident at four years of age, when verbal and full IQ scores were reduced 5.5 to 8.0 points for those with the highest prenatal exposures.

"The neurodevelopmental effects of prenatal exposure to PBDEs have not previously been studied among children in North America, where levels are typically higher than in Europe or Asia," said Julie Herbstman, PhD, first author on the paper and a research scientist in Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health. "The findings are consistent with effects observed in animal studies and, if replicated in other North American populations, they could have important public health implications."

Frederica Perera, DrPh, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School, CCCEH Director, and
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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