A new study has produced some sobering statistics about children and toxins, particularly flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers. The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that Mexican-American school children in California are contaminated with seven times more flame retardants than children in Mexico and three times more than their own mothers.  

And there's more. The California children had PBDE levels higher than those reported for almost all other groups of children ever studied.

“Only Nicaraguan children who lived and worked on hazardous waste sites had higher reported levels of PBDEs in their bodies than the California children,” said study leader Brenda Eskenazi of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH).

Now that's sobering.

Large volumes of PBDEs have been used in the United States, particularly in California, since the 1970s to meet flammability regulations. California has the toughest flammability standards in the nation, requiring that furniture be able to withstand 12 seconds of flame without catching fire. For this reason, many furniture manufacturers, particularly those that sell products in California, add large amounts of PBDEs to their furniture.

Health effects of PBDEs are largely unknown, but previous studies have linked them to a decline in fine motor skills and attention in children, as well as infertility in adults.  

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