Common Flame Retardant Could Affect Kids' Social Behavior


A few chemicals added to furniture, as well as electronics and numerous other household goods in order to prevent fire could have negative developmental consequences on kids. A pilot study proposed a theory which suggests that social behavior among young children and their exposure to flame retardants can be correlated.

The study, carried out by researchers at the Oregon State University, was published March 9, in the journal Environmental Health.

Flame Retardants Cause Behavior Issues Among Children

The researchers analyzed behavior assessments and exposure levels in children who were part of the study, and observed that the ones who were more exposed to specific types of flame retardant were also more aggressive, hyperactive, inattentive, and defiant or were likely to manifest bullying behavior.

"This is an intriguing finding because no one had previously studied the behavioral effects of organophosphate classes of flame retardants, which have been added to consumer products more recently," noted Molly Kile, environmental epidemiologist and corresponding author of the research.

Flame retardants can be found in the built environment of different household items, from furniture and carpeting, to mattresses, vehicles and electronics. Regardless of the type of household item, these flame retardants are not chemically connected to these materials, but are being added to the products. Due to the lack of bond between them, the chemicals can be let out indoors.

Flame retardants have first been added to different objects back in 1975, following the laws of the state of California aimed at reducing the flammability of common household items. In 2014, the laws were updated, allowing manufacturers of furniture to meet the legal requirements without flame retardant chemicals added to their products.

Despite this legal update, a large number of companies still use flame retardants, which raises concern from the scientific world and from health representatives. The most used kinds of flame retardants are brominated diphenyl ethers or BDEs and organophosphate-based flame retardants or OPFRs.

OPFRs are a more eco-friendly alternative to BDEs, since the latter tend to remain for very long periods of time in the environment. Previous research has shown the connection between these two types of flame retardants and poorer cognitive function among children.

Prior to this research, flame retardant have also made the news in 2014, when many preschools in the United States were found to have exposed the kids to potentially hazardous chemicals, consisting of potentially harmful flame retardants.

"Children are more vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants, so we should be particularly careful to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals," noted researcher Asa Bradman, author of that study.

Flame Retardants, Dangerous For Children

At the same time, a study carried out in 2014 revealed that Americans can show signs of chemicals used as flame retardants in their bodies. According to that study, urine samples from people who lived in California showed signs of six different substances.

Additionally, these chemicals were also observed as part of another research carried out in 2016, in the hair and nails of the participants. Since this study, scientists would use blood, urine and breast milk samples to establish the levels of exposure. However, these conventional methods are harder to obtain.

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