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New Research on Flame Retardants (PBDEs) and Pregnancy

New research suggests that higher levels of flame retardant chemicals (PBDEs) in pregnant women may not be healthy for the developing fetus. The chemicals can wreak havoc with thyroid hormone levels, which play an important role in fetal development.

The study, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives by researchers at The University of California, Berkeley found that women with high levels of PBDEs were at risk for “subclinical hyperthyroidism.”

Clinical hyperthyroidism can lead to premature birth, miscarriage and reduced fetal growth. It’s unclear whether  subclinical hyperthyroidism could have similar effects. “Scientists do not know whether the thyroid effects were significant enough to harm their fetuses” writes Marla Cone, Editor in Chief of Environmental Health News.

PDBEs are all over the place (in furniture, cars, carpet pads, airplanes, mattresses), they store in our fat cells, and are hard to get rid of. Most PBDEs have been banned or are being phased out but new and similar chemicals are being used in their place and we don’t yet know how they will effect humans. This study was led by the same team that found a correlation between high levels of PBDEs and the length of time a takes to conceive. The authors suggest routine testing of thyroid levels in pregnant women so we can learn more.

Bottom line: PBDEs suck. They just do. They’ve been banned in Europe and America is slowly catching on with California leading the way. It’s hard to “avoid” PBDEs in pregnancy– it’s not the same as skipping unpasteurized cheese. Probably the best thing to do is to follow (via twitter or facebook) and/or support environmental groups like EWG or NRDC who are continually looking at these chemicals and advocating for laws that will protect us.

photo: Nevadatumbleweed/Flickr

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