According to Dr. Harpreet Malhi, a California physician and mother, “peer-reviewed animal and human studies find associations between flame retardants and decreased IQ in children, learning disabilities such as attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, cancer, cryptorchidism (undescended testicles), decreased sperm quality, increased time to pregnancy, and endocrine and thyroid disruption.”
It’s not just the humans in our families that are being affected by these toxic flame retardants. Our pets are also being exposed.
Toxic flame retardant chemicals have been found in the blood of pet dogs at concentrations five to 10 times higher than in humans, U.S. researchers say.
Indiana University scientists, writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, say pets could serve as “biosentinels” for monitoring human exposure to compounds present in the households they share.
The study focused on the presence of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, compounds widely used as flame retardants in household furniture and electronics equipment that can migrate out of the products and enter the environment, a university release reported Tuesday.
“Even though they’ve been around for quite awhile, we don’t know too much about these compounds’ toxicological effects on humans or animals,” Marta Venier, a research scientist in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said. “The bottom line is that we still need to keep measuring them, particularly in homes.”
The researchers analyzed flame retardants in blood from 17 pet dogs, all of whom live primarily indoors, and found average concentration of PBDEs in the blood of about 2 nanograms per gram, about five to 10 times higher than levels found in humans in the few studies of human exposure that have been done in North America.
Researchers examined the dogs’ food to see if that was the source of the higher levels of flame retardants. They found levels higher than commonly found in meat for human consumption and suspect manufacturing as the source of contamination.
Even though the PBDE mixtures with less-brominated compounds have been voluntarily phased out in the US since 2004 (they are banned in the EU), these toxic flame retardants are still present in our environment. PBDEs “bioaccumulate in animal tissues”.They study also detected newer flame retardants in the dogs’ blood:
The current study also detected newer flame retardants that have come onto the market as PBDEs have been removed, including Dechlorane Plus, decabromodiphenylethane, and hexabromocyclododecane. The chemicals are largely unregulated but pose concerns because they are structurally similar to organic pollutants that have been linked to environmental and human health effects.
“The concentrations of these newer flame retardants were relatively low compared to the PBDEs,” Venier said, “but the fact that they are new and not regulated suggests their levels are going to increase in the future.”
Four years ago, the same Indiana scientists found PBDE levels in cats 20 to 100 times higher than humans! The statistics for dogs and cats are scary considering they share the same homes as their human companions. Our pets may be the canary in the mine for toxic flame retardants in our homes.