Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Socioeconomics may affect toddlers' exposure to flame retardants

23.05.2012
A Duke University-led study of North Carolina toddlers suggests that exposure to potentially toxic flame-retardant chemicals may be higher in nonwhite toddlers than in white toddlers.

The study also suggests that exposure to the chemicals is higher among toddlers whose fathers do not have a college degree, a proxy measure of lower socioeconomic background.

Hand-to-mouth activity may account for a significant amount of the children's exposure to the contaminants, according to the study, which appears Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Age and duration of breastfeeding also were associated with exposure.

The scientists, led by Heather Stapleton, assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, tested 83 toddlers ages 12 to 36 months for levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). This class of exceptionally long-lasting chemicals was widely used over the last 30 years to reduce flammability in a variety of consumer products, including polyurethane foam padding, electronics and furniture.

Studies have shown that over time, PBDEs migrate into the environment and accumulate in living organisms, where they can disrupt endocrine activity and impair thyroid regulation and brain development. Early exposure to PBDEs has been linked to low birth weight and impaired cognitive, motor and behavioral development. One study in 2010 showed that children with high levels of exposure to PBDEs scored lower on infant development and preschool IQ tests.

Because children can be exposed to PBDEs three ways – by ingesting them with food or dust particles, breathing them in from the air, or ingesting them through mother's milk – Stapleton and her colleagues collected blood serum samples, hand-wipe samples and house dust samples for each child in the test group.

They detected PBDE contaminants in all of the blood and house dust samples and in 98 percent of the hand-wipe samples. Older children had higher average total body burdens of the contaminants, the study found, with average levels increasing by an estimated 60 percent to 70 percent for each year of age. This may reflect the combined effect of PBDE accumulation in the body over time and the toddlers' increased hand-to-mouth activity.

Duration of breastfeeding also was associated with exposure. Blood samples contained significant levels of one PBDE component that has a long half-life in the body and is strongly correlated to the amount of time a mother spends breastfeeding. "This could be coming from PBDE exposures the mother had up to two-and-a-half years ago," Stapleton said.

Further research is needed to explain why white toddlers in the study averaged 32 parts per billion of PBDE chemicals in their blood serum, while nonwhite toddlers averaged 60 parts per billion, she noted.

"Race and socioeconomic status were closely associated in our test group, so it's hard to disentangle them," Stapleton said, "but it's important to note that we found no significant differences in PBDE concentrations in house dust samples by race or parental education. This suggests the exposure difference is not driven solely by higher levels of PBDE in dust from lower socioeconomic homes."

One of the most promising findings of the study, Stapleton said, is that hand-wipe samples turned out to be good predictors of total exposures.

"Using hand-wipes, we were able to predict almost half of the toddlers' total exposure levels," she said. "This suggests in the future, we could use hand-wipes to characterize a child's exposure and predict levels of PBDEs in the blood, which would be much easier than having to draw blood."

Parents or caregivers may be able to reduce toddlers' potential exposures through more frequent hand-washing and by researching, as best they can, which flame retardants are used in their household products. "Right now, it's hard to determine what flame-retardant chemicals are in most products due to confidential business information that protects the companies' proprietary rights," Stapleton said. "Hopefully, this study's findings will inform policymakers that we need better public access to this information."

Historically, three mixtures of PBDEs have been sold under different trade names. Two mixtures, pentaBDE and octaBDE, were phased out in 2005 due to concerns about their persistence and toxicity. The third mixture, decaBDE, is slated for voluntary phase-out starting in 2013.

Being phased out doesn't mean they no longer pose risks, Stapleton noted. "The type of PBDE we tracked in our study was from the pentaBDE mixture, which has, officially at least, been off the market for more than seven years."

None of the children in the study group had prior diagnoses of thyroid problems, and the group was reasonably evenly distributed across gender, age, race, duration of breastfeeding and parents' education.

Stapleton's co-authors were Sarah Eagle, formerly of Duke's Nicholas School and now at Virginia Tech; Andreas Sjodin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Environmental Health; and Thomas F. Webster of the Boston University School of Public Health.

Funding for the study came from a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Tim Lucas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Infants later diagnosed with autism follow adults’ gaze, but seldom initiate joint attention
24.05.2019 | Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

nachricht When wheels and heads are spinning - DFG research project on motion sickness in automated driving
22.05.2019 | Technische Universität Berlin

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>