The chemical Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is used in a variety of consumer products to make them difficult to burn during a fire – sounds great, right? Not if they’re toxic.
PBDEs have been used for many years in electronics, baby strollers, carpeting, and other products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people are exposed to low concentrations of PBDEs as this chemical has been found in breast milk, body fat, and blood. So how does this affect your health?
The CDC reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has classified this chemical as a possible human carcinogen – meaning that there is a possibility that it could cause cancer in humans, but there haven’t been enough studies conducted.
A new study by Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, finds that exposure to this chemical can have effects on children, even though these chemicals were removed for use in the United States in 2004.
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Dr. Chen and his team of researchers enrolled 309 pregnant women, and took blood samples to measure the amount of PBDE in the women. The researchers also performed intelligence tests and behavioral tests every year on these women’s children up until they were five years old. Dr. Chen discovered that exposure of PBDEs from the mothers resulted in a deficit in children’s cognition at the age of five, and hyperactivity at ages two through five. Although we no longer actively use PBDEs, you can still be exposed through older products – and exposure to PBDEs can occur just by breathing air contaminated with PBDEs. So, if you’re pregnant, how can you limit your exposure to PBDEs? Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview Dr. Chen about this and other questions.
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