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Toxic chemicals found in baby products; some may be linked to autism

Posted by on May. 21, 2011 at 10:29 PM
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A new study shows that 80 percent of products tested made for infants and toddlers contained toxic chemical flame retardants that can have harmful effects on health.  The products include items made with polyurethane foam such as car seats, mattresses, and changing pads.  Of the 80 samples in the study that contained flame retardants, 79 were either brominated or chlorinated.

Brominated flame retardants, or those based in the chemical element bromine, have been implicated as potential risk factors in autism spectrum disorders, cancer, and other health problems. Studies on brominated flame retardants have shown adverse developmental effects on animals.

Brominated flame retardants have increased in household products over the last 30 years because they make them less flammable. However, the toxins from these chemicals can leach from the products into the environment and accumulate in the body.  Fetuses and babies are especially susceptible to toxic chemicals.

Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai Medical Center has said environmental causes, including brominated flame retardants, are strongly associated with autism.

“Over the last decade, we’ve developed very good scientific information that links three or four classes of chemicals to brain injury in babies if the exposure occurs during pregnancy,” Landrigan told in 2010. “We’ve found that phthalates, brominated flame retardants, and certain pesticides are linked to loss of intelligence, attention deficit disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in children.”  PDD is one of the autism spectrum disorders.

Landrigan is one of the leaders of the National Children’s Study, which is expected to identify causes of autism and many other childhood disorders and diseases.

Donna Ferullo, the Director of Program Research of the Autism Society, said in a press release, “We know that little people tend to bite, lick, mouth, wet and fully experience these products, and absorb more toxins than adults by both habits and percentage of small body weight,” she said. “For example, a wet mattress sends an entirely new combination of untested vapors into a small, vulnerable system. Frequent and multiple exposures to chemicals combined with an inadequate detoxification pathway do not ensure healthy development of the brain and immune system. We strive to limit toxic chemical exposures in both the inception and modulation of autism to protect best quality of life.”


According to the study, published in the Environmental Science & Technology Journal, of 101 products tested,:

  • Four products contained penta-BDE, a substance banned in 172 countries and 12 U.S. states.
  • 29 products contained TDCPP or chlorinated Tris, a possible human carcinogen that was removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s.
  • 14 products contained TCEP, a carcinogenic flame retardant.

Andy Igrejas of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families said in a press release, "These are the worst kind of chemicals, and they are a potent symbol of the complete breakdown in chemical management in this country. You bring them into your home hidden in consumer products that seem benign. But they get out of products and into your bloodstream where they begin to damage your health. The government doesn’t do anything about it and that needs to change."

Proposed chemical safety legislation would empower the Environmental Protection Agency to minimize risks from chemicals proven to be dangerous, require safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and require businesses to prove chemicals are safe before using them.  Currently, only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals in existence have been tested for safety. 

by on May. 21, 2011 at 10:29 PM
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