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Originally published November 3 2010

Flame retardant chemicals lead to mentally retarded children

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Prenatal exposure to flame retardant chemicals may hamper children's neurological development, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In a study conducted on 152 children, researchers recruited women who had been pregnant at the time of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and who gave birth within two miles of ground zero. Levels of the toxic flame retardant chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were measured in the women's cord blood. All children then participated in at least one test of neurological development at age one, two, three, four or six.

Children who had been exposed to higher levels of PBDEs scored significantly lower on tests of neurodevelopment than children with lower exposure, particularly by four years of age. Those in the highest 20 percent exposure category scored an average of 5 to 11 points lower on such tests than less-exposed children did.

The researchers noted that this gap was not significant enough to diagnose any child with developmental delay. The results do suggest, however, that PBDEs may contribute to such problems.

Prior research has linked PBDEs to thyroid malfunction and hyperactivity.

The researchers further emphasized that because the PBDE levels detected in participants' cord blood were similar to those found in other parts of the United States, "it is certain" that pollution from the World Trade Center was not the only source of the mothers' PBDE exposure.

PBDEs are used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products, including electronics, furniture and automobile and airline parts. The European Union has banned all three varieties of PBDE, known as penta, octa and deca.

In the United States, no PBDEs have been banned, but manufacturers have voluntarily discontinued production of the penta and octa varieties. They have agreed to phase out the production of deca PBDEs by 2013.

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