Study Finds High Levels of Toxic Chemicals in Calif. Pregnant Women
Pregnant women in California had the highest levels of flame-retardant chemicals that have ever been recorded in pregnant women, according to a study byÂ UC-San Francisco, the Bay Citizen reports (Mieszkowski, Bay Citizen, 8/10).
The pilot study at San Francisco General Hospital involved 25 women and was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/10).
About the Chemicals
The chemicals -- known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs -- are associated with lower IQs and attention deficit disorders in children (Bay Citizen, 8/10). According to FDA, the chemicals can be toxic to the liver, thyroid and nerve development (Hennessy-Fiske, "Greenspace," Los Angeles Times, 8/10).
Many PBDEs have been banned in California since 2004, but before then, they were commonly used in flame retardants to treat polyurethane foam found in furniture and baby products.
Because PBDEs were not chemically bound to the foam, the particles could scatter and be inhaled through dust.
Key Study Findings
Researchers found PBDEs at high levels in 25 women who were in their second trimester of pregnancy (Bay Citizen, 8/10).
The women involved in the study were low income, which supports other research that low-income individuals might have higher exposure to PBDEs. Researchers noted that low-income individuals are more likely to have older or poorly made furniture (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/10).
Ami Zota --Â of the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment and a co-author of the studyÂ -- said exposure to the chemicals "can have long-lasting effects on the way that the fetal brain develops" (Bay Citizen, 8/10).
Researchers said they are increasing the number of participants in the pilot study to at least 100 to get a stronger sampling.
Jonathan Chevrier -- lead author of the study and a UC-Berkeley researcher in epidemiology and environmental health sciences -- said the study's results show there is a need for further study.
The American Chemistry Council said the study was "limited" because it looked at only one class of flame retardants that largely are no longer in production.
Jackson Morrill -- a director in the chemical products and technology division at the company -- said, "It is important to note that the authors themselves indicate that 'further investigation is warranted'" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.