PBDEs Flame Retardant Chemicals Found in Children

PBDE and Children

A new study shows polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), flame retardant chemicals found in most household products, accumulate in children's blood and tissue at rates three times higher than their mothers in the same household. Although flame retardants may save lives from fires, the unintended consequences of these chemicals may affect children's development and hormone function.

Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) are flame retardant chemicals used in electronics, plastics, foams, fabrics, upholstery and other materials. The benefit of these chemicals is their ability to slow the rate of fire and allow escape from flames, thereby saving lives. There is growing evidence, however, that PBDEs persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms. The levels found in humans has been increasing annually since the EPA started tracking them. These chemicals enter air, water and soil during their manufacture and are inhaled or ingested by humans.


A new study by the Environmental Working Group showed young children had three times the blood levels of PBDEs than their mothers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports there is growing evidence that these chemicals may cause liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity and neurodevelopmental toxicity. There are no definitive human studies showing safe levels. Children accumulate PBDEs through breast milk and direct contact and inhalation.

This is the first study that shows children living in the same environment as mothers have higher blood levels of the chemical.

John Kyte, a spokesman for an industry group called the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum, says the levels of fire retardants found in children in the study were low - an average of 62 parts per billion in children, compared to 25 parts per billion in their mothers.

What can you do to protect against PBDE chemicals? Unfortunately these chemicals are everywhere and there is no way to completely avoid them. Since they accumulate in fat, eat less animal foods. When possible, choose manufacturers who have committed to phasing out PBDEs. They include Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson and Toshiba. Using Hepa filters in the vacuum can help, as well as having children wash their hands before eating.



The story published in WebMD writes that the researchers found total PBDE concentration in the children's blood averaged 62 parts per billion and ranged from 24 to 114 ppb. The concentration in the mothers' blood averaged 25 ppb and ranged from 10 to 74 ppb. Are these acceptable levels?
There are no studies that show acceptable levels of PBDEs in humans and studies have only been done in animals. The EPA has set a reference dose of 7 micrograms/kg of body weight as "believed to be without appreciable effects." I do not know how those ranges compare to "parts per billion". Toni Brayer, MD