The headline says it all: Fire retardant chemicals found in toddlers’ blood.
Scientists are concerned that the chemicals cause brain damage in animals and may cause hyperactivity in children, says Jimmy Roberts, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on environmental health, who was not involved with the study. Doctors also are concerned that the chemicals affect the reproductive organs and hormone systems. A Danish study in 2007 found that boys whose mothers had high levels of fire retardants in their breast milk were more likely to have undescended testicles.
These are the same chemicals that we found in high levels in the breastmilk of Northwestern moms. The worst forms have been banned in the US for several years, but one form is still in widespread use—and apparently we may still be importing some of the worst kinds from overseas. Even more troubling, there’s still tons of these persistent flame retardants in people’s homes, particularly in furniture foams that are gradually degrading. And as they degrade, the flame retardants get into dust—which toddlers & nursing moms then inhale. It’s a contamination problem that will likely affect our homes and workplaces for years.
The whole episode is a cautionary tale: once you let a toxic genie out of the bottle, it’s awfully hard to get it back in.