Pregnant California women have registered some of the highest levels of the toxic flame retardant PBDE in their bodies ever recorded worldwide, according to a new study released by researchers at UC San Francisco on Wednesday.
The research team tested 25 second-trimester pregnant women from Northern and Central California seeking care in San Francisco in 2008 and 2009 and found that their blood showed high levels of PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which studies show are harmful to the liver, thyroid and nerve development, according to the study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.
Researchers believe that the women's high PBDE levels were due to California's strict flammability regulations enacted in the 1970s, which led manufacturers to add flame retardants to a wide variety of products, from electronics to furniture. The chemicals have largely been banned in California since 2004.
U.S.-born minority and low-income women were more likely to be exposed to the toxic chemicals, possibly because they were more likely to use secondhand furniture or live in low-income housing with poor ventilation, according to the study's lead author, Ami Zota, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.