Flame retardants could be changing your child's behavior and not in a good way

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Flame retardants linked to child aggression and more

New research suggests flame retardants could be affecting your child's behavior, but not in a good way.


Oregon State University researchers found a strong association between exposure to the chemicals and behaviors in children that included aggression, bullying, hyperactivity and inattention.

The researchers collected levels of flame retardants in homes by attaching wristbands to children that absorb chemicals.
When they measured how much flame retardant was absorbed they discovered kids exposed to higher levels in the home were more prone to have behavior problems.

Flame retardants linger in the environment

The researchers for this study say some flame retardants stay in the environment for a long time. There have been concerns about the chemicals and how they impact humana health.

Flame retardants widely used in past years have raised concerns about ill health effect and were added to household items in 1975 including furniture, mattresses, carpets, electronics and automobiles. They are still widely used


Two types of flame retardants - BDEs and OPFRs are linked to cognitive dysfunction in children but there hasn't been much information available about how he chemicals might affect behavior, especially during crucial social development years.

"The social skills children learn during preschool set the foundation for their success in school, and also for their social and emotional health and well-being later in life," said Shannon Lipscomb, an associate professor and lead of the human development and family sciences program at OSU-Cascades and a co-author of the study in a media release.

  • When choosing household products, parents will want to know how to limit their child's exposure to flame retardants and other toxic chemicals in the home.
  • Choose products without flame retardants
  • Advocate for safer consumer products
  • Remove carpeting in the home carefully
  • Use a HEPA filter when you vaccuum.
  • Repair couch cushion tears and replace torn foam in your furniture - the foam in the couches likely contains flame retardants that can escape
  • Call furniture manufacturers before you buy to find out of the the fabrics or cushions contain the chemicals

The experiment the researchers conducted can detect up to 1,200 chemicals due to the porous nature of the wristbands worn by the 69 children included in the study.

The researchers matched chemical exposure levels with behavioral assessments, home environment and socioeconomic factor questionnaires completed by parents, caregivers and teachers.

All of the children were exposed to some flame retardant. "When we analyzed behavior assessments and exposure levels, we observed that the children who had more exposure to certain types of the flame retardant were more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors such as aggression, defiance, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying," said Molly Kile, an environmental epidemiologist and associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.


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