A new study involving Simon Fraser University researchers has found that prenatal exposure to flame retardants can be significantly linked to lower IQs and greater hyperactivity in five-year-old children. The findings are published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The researchers found that a 10-fold increase in polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) concentrations in early pregnancy, when the fetal brain is developing, was associated with a 4.5 IQ decrement, which is comparable with the impact of environmental lead exposure.
SFU health sciences professor Bruce Lanphear is part of the research team that measured the levels of flame retardants, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, (PBDEs) in 309 U.S. women at 16 weeks of pregnancy, and followed their children to the age of five.
Researchers say their results confirm earlier studies that found PBDEs, which are routinely found in pregnant women and children, may be developmental neurotoxicants.
PBDEs have been widely used as flame retardants in furniture, carpet padding, car seats and other consumer products over the past three decades.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) added two of three existing commercial PBDE formulas to the list of banned Persistent Organic Pollutants (PIPs) due to concerns over toxicity in wildlife and mammals in 2009. While PBDEs were voluntarily withdrawn from the U.S.market in 2004, products manufactured before then may still contain PBDEs, which can continue to be released into the environment and accumulate via indoor dust.