Study Finds That Race and Socioeconomic Conditions Matter When It Comes to Levels of Flame Retardants in the Bloodstream
This blog has previously discussed the dangers of flame retardants, which have been widely used on clothing and furniture, enough so that constant exposure has led to trace amounts in people's bloodstream. Now, a new study finds that the dangers can be worse depending upon your race and socioeconomic group. Overall, the Duke University researchers found that nonwhite toddlers had higher levels of flame retardants in their bloodstream than white toddlers.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been added to consumer products over the past 30 years, from carpeting and furniture to electronics. While PBDEs reduce the risk of fire, they have also been known to disrupt endocrine activity and thyroid regulation. Exposure in the womb and during one's early years has been connected to low birth weight, lower intelligence, and physical and mental impairment. As a result of studies showing their danger, two commercial formulations of PBDEs, pentaBDE and octaBDE, were phased out over concerns about their toxicity.
However, in existing clothing and furniture, the chemical remains. What is worse, as the products age, they break down and release PBDEs into the atmosphere. The new study found that children were most likely to be exposed through food consumption, inhaling dust particles, and through their mothers' breast milk. Researchers examined 83 toddlers between the ages of one and three years old. They detected PBDE contaminants in all of the blood and house-dust samples, as well as 98% of all hand-wipe samples. The older the child, the higher the level of contaminants, with levels increasing each year by roughly 60% to 70%.
Researchers also found that nonwhite toddlers had twice the amount of contaminants in their bloodstream than white toddlers. They were unsure of the reason, speculating that methods of cleanliness (such as hand washing) could account for the difference. However, a previous examination of flame retardants noted that people of lower socioeconomic backgrounds may have higher levels of chemicals in their blood because their furniture was older and therefore more likely to release PBDEs into the atmosphere.
Studies have shown that if babies are exposed to endocrine disrupters while in the womb, there is a higher risk that they will be born with birth defects. If your child has a birth defect that you believe could be due to PBDE exposure, you might consider filing a toxic tort lawsuit. The greatest challenge would be locating the source of the toxins. If you suspect that it could be your furniture, you would need to have it tested and see whether the chemicals it released had any relation to chemicals that could have harmed your child. You would need to determine that toxins from the furniture, rather than another source, was the main cause. If your furniture is old or second hand, you might need to do some research and determine whether the manufacturer is even still in business. If you are able to identify the source with certainty and back it up with strong evidence, you may succeed in filing a toxic tort lawsuit.