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RELEASE DATE: September 4, 2008
Toddlers & Pre-school Aged Children Three Times more Polluted With Fire Retardants Than Their Mothers
WASHINGTON – In the first nationwide investigation of chemical fire retardants in parents and their children, Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that toddlers and pre-schoolers typically had 3 times more of the neurotoxic compounds in their blood as their mothers. The study suggests that U.S. children 1 to 4 years of age bear the heaviest burden of flame retardant pollution in the industrialized world.
Laboratory tests — conducted in collaboration with Dr. Åke Bergman, a preeminent environmental chemist — found that in 19 of 20 U.S. families, concentrations of the toxic chemicals known as PBDEs were significantly higher in 1- to 4-year-old children than in their mothers. The tests found the fire retardant Deca, banned in Maine but unregulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more often and in higher amounts in U.S. children than their mothers.
“The federal government needs to follow Maine’s lead and ban this fire retardant which can harm children’s developing brains and reproductive systems. America’s children are bearing the burden of an unresponsive federal chemicals policy,” said Amanda Sears, Associate Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, a Maine based public health organization that spearheaded the successful campaign to phase out the use of PBDE’s in products sold in Maine in favor of safer alternatives.
The average levels of PBDEs in the blood of children tested by EWG were about 62 parts per billion, compared to 25 ppb in their mothers. In the limited number of studies of this age group in other countries, Spanish, Norwegian and Australian children had levels 2 to 15 times lower.
“It’s well documented that U.S. adults are more exposed to chemical fire retardants than in other countries, but these findings show that young children are at even higher risk,” said Anila Jacob, MD, EWG senior scientist and study co-author. “Parents want to protect their children, but once they are old enough to crawl or walk, they are more vulnerable to exposure from these and other toxic chemicals.”
Toxic fire retardants in everyday items like furniture, sofas, televisions and computers could expose children to concentrations exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended safe level. Children ingest more fire retardants and other toxins when they put their hands, toys and other objects in their mouths.
Children’s developing brains and reproductive systems are extraordinarily vulnerable to toxic chemicals. In the case of PBDEs, laboratory tests in peer-reviewed studies have found that a single dose administered to mice on a day when the brain is growing rapidly can cause permanent changes to behavior, including hyperactivity.
“These chemicals are everywhere - in food, in our homes and schools,” said Laurie Yung of Missoula, Mont., who was tested along with her 3-year-old son, Conner. “We need laws to protect us from exposure not only to these chemicals, but that will make sure chemicals are safe for kids before they’re allowed on the market.”
Even as the chemical industry insists Deca is safe, the European Union has banned it from use, 10 U.S. states are considering or have enacted legislative bans, and major electronics manufacturers including Nokia, Sony-Ericsson and Samsung no longer use Deca and are phasing-out other bromine-based fire retardants.
NOTE: Moms and kids who participated in the study were from California, Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington State and Washington, D.C. Mothers are available for comment, as are leading U.S. and international scientists. View the full results and report at www.ewg.org.