A new study has found that flame retardants banned years ago in California are now finally reaching lower levels in the bodies of pregnant women who live there. This study is good news in a week that the nation's leading experts on reproductive health released a report warning of the affects that chemicals can have on a woman's body.
The controversial chemicals, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs – were banned in 2003 after studies showed that they were doubling in women’s breast milk every five years. In a new small study published yesterday, researchers found that reported levels of PBDEs in pregnant California women were 65 percent lower than in a similar group of women tested three years earlier.
For the study, researchers tested the blood of 25 pregnant women from around Northern California who came to San Francisco General Hospital in 2008 and 2009 for PBDEs. They then compared these levels with those found in 36 pregnant women tested in 2011 and 2012 at the hospital. It's significant to note that these were not the same women tested at two different times. So it's impossible to know for sure if there is an overall decline. But the study's authors noted that their findings are consistent with other recent studies of dust in homes in California that have shown similar drops in PBDE levels since the ban.
PBDEs were once a popular flame retardant used in furniture, mattresses, carpets, drapes and other household products. But researchers soon found that they were spreading through dust and getting into the food chain, winding up in the bodies of children and adults. In past studies, researchers had found that children and pregnant women in California had higher levels of PBDEs in their bodies than in any other state or in Europe.