A new study has found that PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, may delay the neurodevelopment of children exposed to the fire retardants in the womb and in the first few years of life. This follows a study taht was published this spring that found that PBDE levels in California's kids were 10 to 1,000 times higher than European children and 2 to 10 times higher than other U.S. children and adults.
PBDEs are flame retardant chemicals that are widely used in furniture, infant products, electronics and other goods. Californians have the highest exposure to PBDEs in the world due in large part to the state's tough fire-safety law which requires that furniture withstand 12 seconds of flame without catching fire. To comply, manufacturers coat products with heavy doses of PBDEs.
It's a law meant to keep kids safe, but instead it is exposing them to large amounts of a chemical linked with thyroid dysfunction, infertility, and now, neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention problems, poor motor skills, and lower IQ scores.
The study, conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and published recently in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives looked at types of PBDEs that were banned and phased out in 2004. But these chemicals are still pervasive in many homes.