According to Medical News Today on Friday, a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has suggested that phasing out the use of potentially harmful flame retardants in furniture foam, electronics and plastics may be having a positive impact on pregnant women and newborns’ exposure to the chemicals.
In 2011, Medical News Today reported on a study showing evidence that some PBDEs may be undermining thyroid hormone signaling throughout a woman’s pregnancy – something which could affect the brain development of the fetus.
What are flame retardants?
Flame retardants, also known as PBDE’s (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers) are ubiquitous, required since the 1970s by fire marshals in every state and community, and promoted by the chemical industry that makes them. But critics say they’re problematic — both in everyday use and when burned – and their effectiveness at stopping fires is also being questioned.
The active ingredients in PBDEs, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), are found in common soft drinks such as Mountain Dew, Gatorade and Vitamin Water.
A class of flame retardants that has been linked to learning difficulties in children has rapidly declined in pregnant women’s blood since the chemicals were banned in California a decade ago, according to a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco.
Fire retardants and pregnancy
Exposure to fire retardants during pregnancy are linked to hyperactivity and lower IQs in children later in life. Flame retardants also alter a woman’s hormones. The thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH, declined almost 17 percent for every tenfold increase in PBDEs in women during the new study. Low TSH suggests that the thyroid is producing too much hormone on its own. The reductions were found for every type of PBDE tested.
Results of the analysis from blood samples of 25 pregnant women who visited San Francisco General Hospital between 2008 and 2009, showed that the level of PBDEs in blood samples reduced by 65% between 2008 and 2011, which suggests, the researchers note, that the ban of the chemicals is having a positive impact on the level of exposure.
Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said the new research raises some important questions about public health since it is uncertain just how flame retardants are affecting children or their mothers.
“Newer data showing that PBDE replacements also make their way into household raises the question: do we really need these flame retardants in all of the products where they’re being used, like nursing pillows?” she says.
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