Friday, August 12, 2011

Ominous World Record: Pregnant Californians have the highest levels ever recorded of banned chemical

Despite being outlawed in 2004, scientists have found that polybrominated diphenyl ethers, also known as PBDEs, are showing up at unprecedented levels in pregnant woman in California.

They believe the results may stem from the state's strict flammability regulations.

Before the ban the chemicals were commonly used to treat polyurethane foam to slow the rate the material would burn if it caught fire.

The foam was widely used in couches, chairs, mattresses, baby products and other household items.

It was later discovered that the PBDEs were not bound to the foam and instead scattered easily in the air and could be inhaled through dust. Much of the furniture is still being used today in homes, restaurants and offices making PBDEs present throughout the state.

The UCSF-led research team found high levels of PBDEs, as well as the by-products that result when the flame retardants break down in the body, in 25 second-trimester pregnant women from Northern and Central California seeking care in San Francisco.

“While our study group was small, the higher chemical exposure in pregnant women is particularly concerning and warrants further research. PBDEs can disrupt the thyroid system and have been linked to neurodevelopmental problems in children following prenatal exposure,” said Ami R. Zota, ScD, MS, lead author.

Another UCSF study recently found that the bodies of virtually all U.S. pregnant women carry multiple chemicals, including PBDEs and others banned since the 1970s. 

That research was the first time that the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed has been counted.

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The researchers say there are steps families can take to minimize their exposure to toxic chemicals at home, including buying special air filters.

They also suggest washing hands frequently to avoid ingesting dust when you eat. 

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