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Flame Retardant May Up Risk of Thyroid Problems in Pregnancy

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, June 22, 2010 11:59 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Children's Health, Fire Retardants, EPA, Environmental Working Group, Thyroid Hormones, Pregnant Women


IMAGE SOURCE: Katrina and Ruby, study participants/ Courtesy: EWG

Flame retardants are found in so many products, from cars to pajamas that the ubiquitous chemical is found in the blood of most Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An article in the June 21 journal Environmental Health Perspectives now suggests that exposure to flame retardants may reduce the level of thyroid hormones in a pregnant woman which plays a critical role in the babies brain development.

Flame retardants, also known as polybrominated diphenyl or PBDEs were studied by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

PBDEs were measured in 270 pregnant women, mostly Mexican American, and a correlation was made between those with the highest PBDE levels and the lower levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

TSH drops when the thyroid gland overproduces too much hormone. The drop was so dramatic that the women met the definition of subclinical hyperthyroidism, or a malfunction.

Hyperthyroidism is linked to altered fetal development says Chevrier, an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and intrauterine growth retardation.

Author Jonathan Chevrier of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research, says in a news release that women with the low thyroid stimulating hormone may indicate their thyroids may not be functioning normally.

Co-author, Brenda Eskenazi says “A mother’s thyroid hormones affect her developing baby throughout her pregnancy, and they are essential for fetal brain development.”

The Children’s Environmental Health Center is set up in the agricultural centers of the Salinas Valley, California, to study the effects of pesticides on children’s development. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of environmental contaminants.


The Los Angeles Times reports that in the 1970s U.S. fire safety standards led to the increased use of PBDEs.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit, has found a fire retardant chemical used in electronics, toys, and furniture in children’s blood at triple the levels found in their mothers.

Other PBDEs are found in:

· Mattresses used as flame retardants

· Remote controls, computers and televisions

· Foam used for furniture, under carpets

· Power strips and routers

· Entertainment systems

· Child car seats

· Curtains and drapes, water heaters, lamp sockets

· Mobile phones, fax machines

· Children’s pajamas

They leach out and accumulate in human fat cells.

The largest amount of PBDE may come from electronics in a form called Deca, which is banned from use in European electronics. EWG reports it has largely escaped restrictions in the U.S. because few labs can test for it.

PBDE is also found in fish, meat and dairy.

What Can You Do?

· Use HEPA filters in your vacuum

· Avoid foam furniture which may contain fire retardants

· Vacuum carpet padding with fire retardants when removing it

· Ask a manufacturer! The more questions the less likely they’ll opt for them.

· Use your purchasing power! Search out manufacturers who have publicly committed to avoiding flame retardants.

· Choose natural fabrics, leather, wool cotton that are less flammable.

· Major electronics manufacturers - When purchasing new products look for these brands, which have publicly committed to phasing out all brominated fire retardants: Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba are phasing out bromine-based fire retardants. #

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