Exposure to Common Flame Retardants May Contribute to Attention Problems in Children

Prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers and child attention problems at 3–7 years

Prenatal exposure to some flame retardants that have been widely-used in consumer products is associated with attention problems in children ages three through seven, according to a study by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, within Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, ccceh reports.

Abstract

Introduction
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) comprise a class of halogenated compounds used extensively as flame retardant chemicals in consumer products resulting in nearly ubiquitous human exposure. Mounting evidence suggests that PBDEs are developmental neurotoxicants; however, associations between early life exposure and child behavior have been largely limited to a single developmental time point.

Methods
The study population consists primarily of white, black and Chinese women who were pregnant on 11 September 2001 and delivered at 1 of 3 downtown New York City hospitals. Maternal–child pairs were followed through age 7 years. Cord blood was collected at delivery and PBDE plasma levels for 210 samples were analyzed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Child Behavior Checklist, a validated maternal-report instrument used for assessing child behavior, was administered annually between the ages of 3 and 7 years. We analyzed the association between natural log-transformed and dichotomized (low vs. high) PBDEs and attention problems using multivariable adjusted negative binomial regression.

Results
We detected 4 PBDE congeners in more than 50% of samples, with concentrations highest for BDE-47 (median ± IQR: 11.2 ± 19.6 ng/g). In adjusted analyses, we detected associations between BDE-47 (1.21, 95% CI: 1.00, 1.47), and BDE-153 (1.18, 95% CI: 1.00, 1.39) in cord plasma and increased attention problems among children at age 4 (n = 109) but not 6 (n = 107) years.

Conclusions
Our findings demonstrate a positive trend between prenatal PBDE exposure and early childhood attention problems, and are consistent with previous research reporting associations between prenatal PBDE exposure and disrupted child behaviors.

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