Flame Retardants and Your Child’s Health

flameretardantPBDEs – (Polybrominated Diethyl Ethers) are organobromine compounds that are used as flame retardants in furniture and electronics, and are now in some food.

California women have highest levels of PBDE’s due to that state’s policy on flame retardants requiring that furniture not catch on fire if a candle flame is held under it for 10 seconds.  Levels in the rest of the country are half of those in California, and in Spain, they are a fraction of those for US. 


Exposure occurs in the womb, then when infants crawl on carpet, and teeth on objects, putting everything into their mouths. Kids in US have levels equal to those of adults that actually work with these chemicals!  Only in USA is such a huge level found in children.


Chemically, PBDE’s structure is very similar to thyroid hormones. PBDEs thus interfere with endocrine function (thyroid hormone) and are perhaps one of the worst endocrine disruptors as they affect brain development by mimicking and thus blocking natural thyroid hormone function.  They are shown to alter the TSH in pregnant women and we know that low IQ is associated with hypothyroidism. Data shows increased Hypothyroidism in a study done in New York State between 1999–2002.


Not only do PBDE’s disrupt brain development and lower IQ, but they also affect learning, memory, and attention.  Remember, that the rates of autism and ADHD are now somewhere between 1 in 50 and 1 in 100. Neurological toxicity is not from just one chemical but cumulative, and one plus one is not necessarily 2.  As parents, we must do all we can to reduce any exposures that we can.  Likely most of us cannot move to Spain!  


The Environmental working group lists some important things you can do to minimize your child’s PBDE exposure.  See http://www.ewg.org/pbdefree


Dr. Paul

Reply To This Post