A new study has revealed that Mexican-American school children in California are contaminated with up to seven times more flame retardants (also called PBDEs) than children in Mexico and their own mothers.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and noted that “only Nicaraguan children who lived and worked on hazardous waste sites had higher reported levels of PBDEs in their bodies than the California children.”
The study’s leader, Brenda Eskenazi of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) stated, “The levels in young children noted in this study present a major public health challenge. While this challenge is particularly pronounced in California children, it is also relevant to other regions in the U.S.” because the flame retardants are used in furniture and other items sold nationwide.
The study, while revealing that the Mexican-American children of California have the most of the chemicals, it has very little to do with ethnicity. Instead, the findings suggest that low income is likely “major factor in determining who is highly exposed to brominated flame retardants. Poorly manufactured or deteriorating furniture may release more of the compounds, which are added to polyurethane cushions to slow the spread of flames when furniture catches fire.”
Though the health effects of the chemicals are still mostly unknown, two additional studies have linked them to worse fine-motor skills and attention in children, and declines in fertility.