PBDEs in breastmilk – Washington State just approved legislation banning chemical
Household products ranging from kids’ pajamas to computers release these brominated flame retardants; in house and yard dust, as well as specimens collected from sewage sludge, streams, and even in people’s bodies PBDEs can be found.
For 3 decades, manufacturers have been putting these chemicals into a wide variety of products to reduce the risk that these goods will catch fire.
PBDE, or polybrominated diphenyl ether, is a neurotoxic flame-retardant. Before 2005, the type of foam used in upholstered furniture, mattresses, and carpet padding might have contained PBDEs.
These chemicals have been shown to impair attention, learning, memory, and behavior at low levels in laboratory studies. Studies worldwide have found them to be building up rapidly in people, animals, and the environment, and levels in the United States and Canada are by far the highest compared to levels in other countries.
For example, since 1998, almost ten years ago, there have been concerns raised about the safety of PBDEs after Swedish scientists noticed substances related to the chemical were accumulating in human breast milk.
Most U.S. chemists trace their initial concern about these compounds to this report when the researchers stunned the audience with data showing that PBDEs were present in samples of women’s breast milk stored over the past quarter century and that the more recent the sample, the higher the concentration of the chemicals.
Almost 10 years later, EWG’s nationwide study found high levels of PBDEs in the breast milk of every American mother tested. PBDEs are still used in electronics like computers and televisions, which may be an ongoing source of exposure for people.
But breast feeding is important for many health reasons. Health professionals advise that women always breast feed when they can.
Simple steps to reduce your exposures to PBDEs include using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter, and avoiding direct contact with the foam in older furniture and mattresses.
Reconsider purchasing flame retardant pajamas and become more aware of fire hazards in the home and assume responsibility on how to reduce/eliminate them.
There are some regulatory proposals being considered across the country that would get PBDEs out of the few remaining types of products in which they are used, including TVs and computers.
Some type of PBDEs have been banned in Sweden that are related to PentaBDE accumulating in breast milk and other tissues. The European Union has carried out a comprehensive risk assessment of three categories of PBDE – Penta-, Octa- and DecaBDE, and banned the first two.
Washington lawmakers just recently approved a ban on PBDEs under House Bill 1024 which focuses on DecaDBE, the most widely used variety. It will be banned from use in mattresses beginning 2008. The state departments of Ecology and Health will be researching an alternative chemical that must be “safer and technically feasible” for use in TVs, computers and residential upholstered furniture. This piece of legislation makes Washington the first state in the USA addressing the issue of safety of PBDEs. It awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.
Source: Wikipedia, EWG, Science News