Flame Retardants Linked to Low Birthweight in Salinas Babies
August 31, 2011
A study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that high levels of a compound found found in flame retardants detected in the blood of pregnant mothers is associated with low birth weight.
This is the latest finding from the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) longitudinal study led by Brenda Eskenazi, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology. Previous findings from the CHAMACOS study, which examines environmental exposures and reproductive health in an agricultural community, have associated Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers exposure to reduced fertility and altered thyroid function in women.
The study found that women whose PBDE levels were ten times higher than normal had infants with a 4-ounce drop in weight, nearly as much as the average decreased weight associated with smoking.
Still, researchers cautioned against alarm. "These results do contribute to a growing body of evidence that flame retardant exposure impacts human health,[but] it is important to remember that the CHAMACOS babies were a healthy group," Eskenaki said in a statement.
Although PDBEs were phased out in 2004, the chemicals persist in older furniture. California's uniquely stringent fire safety standards are linked to higher levels of flame retardants than other areas of the U.S., and PDBEs were used frequently starting in the 1970s. Recent biomonitoring studies showed that PBDEs could be detected in up to 97 percent of Americans.
The study measured PBDE in the blood of 286 Salinas-area women. Most were recent immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico.
CHAMACOS also recently released a longitudinal study on the effects of pesticides on children's development. The organization focuses on educating residents about how to reduce exposure to potential toxins and improve awareness in the farmworker community.