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Flame retardant exposure found to lower IQ in children

A hazardous class of flame retardant chemicals commonly found in furniture and household products damages children’s intelligence, resulting in loss of IQ points, according to a new study by UC San Francisco researchers.

The study, published Aug. 3, 2017, in Environmental Health Perspectives, included the largest meta-analysis performed on flame retardants to date, and presented strong evidence of polybrominated diphenyl ethers’ (PBDE) effect on children’s intelligence.

The study comes as the debate over flame retardant chemicals continues to flare up; on July 25, legislation was introduced in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to ban PBDEs and all other flame retardant chemicals from furniture and children’s products in sold in the City and County of San Francisco.

“Despite a series of bans and phase-outs, nearly everyone is still exposed to PBDE flame retardants, and children are at the most risk,” said UCSF’s Tracey Woodruff, professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and a member of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. “Our findings should be a strong wake-up call to those policymakers currently working to weaken or eliminate environmental health protections.”

The findings go beyond merely showing a strong correlation: using rigorous epidemiological criteria, the authors considered factors like strength and consistency of the evidence to establish that there was “sufficient evidence” supporting the link between PBDE exposure and intelligence outcomes. Furthermore, a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences endorsed the study and integrated evidence from animal studies to reach similar conclusions that PBDEs are a “presumed hazard” to intelligence in humans.

Prenatal PDBE exposure damages intelligence

Researchers examined data from studies around the world, covering nearly 3,000 mother-child pairs. They discovered that every 10-fold increase in a mom’s PBDE levels led to a drop of 3.7 IQ points in her child.

“A 3.7-point decrease in IQ might not sound like a lot, but on a population-wide level it means more children who need early interventions and families who may face personal and economic burdens for the rest of their lives,” said Juleen Lam, an associate research scientist at UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) and the study’s lead author.

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Source: Medical Xpress