Pregnant women carry fewer traces of flame retardants

Class of toxins linked to IQ deficits dropped drastically in three years, new study shows

California’s 2003 ban on a type of flame retardant may be influencing the circulation of the chemical in people’s blood. Traces of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in the blood of pregnant women decreased by 65 percent over a three-year period in the years following the ban, a new study shows.

The results are published September 25 in Environmental Science & Technology.

Scientists took blood samples from pregnant women seeking medical care in San Francisco between 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 and tested it for traces of PBDEs. This class of flame retardants has been put into furniture and other common products and has also been linked to health problems and learning difficulties in children. In addition to California’s ban, PBDEs have been phased out of use in the United States.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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