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Originally published January 28 2010

Neurotoxic Chemical Common in Foods

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A neurotoxic flame retardant resists environmental breakdown and builds up in the food chain, a new study conducted by researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives has found.

"They are persistent in the environment. They don't get broken down," lead researcher Alicia Fraser said. "Therefore, it takes a really long time for the contamination to leave our environment and our bodies. Even though we don't know the health effects at this point, most people would want policies that would stop us from being exposed to them."

The chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), are closely related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were banned in the 1970s after evidence emerged that they produced birth defects and neurological damage. Flame-retardant PBDEs were introduced at roughly the same time and soon became popular in a wide variety of household and consumer products.

Since the 1990s, evidence has increasingly emerged linking PBDEs to neurological damage in animals. Furthermore, study after study has shown that the chemicals can build up in the human body, particularly in breast milk. Every human population on Earth currently carries PBDEs in their bodies.

In the new study, researchers tested 2,000 people for PBDEs, finding that meat eaters had body burdens 25 percent higher than vegetarians. This provided still more evidence that the chemicals build up in animal fat, resisting degradation.

"The more meat you eat, the more PBDEs you have in your serum," Fraser said.

Many PBDEs have already been banned by the European Union, as well as the states of California, Maine and Washington. The new findings suggest that even if the chemicals are banned worldwide, they will continue to plague us for decades to come -- just like PCBs.

"The industry is finding new products to use as flame retardants, and we don't know the health and safety implications of those products either," Fraser said. "We need to test the health and safety implications of products before they go into use, not after."

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