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Researchers Test 36 Food Samples, Detect Flame Retardant in 15

May 31, 2012 -- A common flame retardant is found in many popular foods, including fish and turkey, according to new research.

Researchers tested foods such as meats, fish, and peanut butter.

Fifteen of the 36 food samples tested had detectable levels of hexabromocyclododecane, or HBCD, says researcher Arnold Schecter, MD, MPH, professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas.

HBCD is used in foams in thermal insulation, in electrical equipment, and consumer products. It is found in the environment and wildlife. People are exposed from products and dust in the home and workplace.

Some scientists are concerned that exposure could be related to developmental effects, hormonal interference, and alterations in the immune and reproductive systems.

"The levels we found are lower than what the government agencies currently think are dangerous," Schecter tells WebMD. "But those levels were determined one chemical at a time."

He and others are discovering in their research that we're exposed to multiple chemicals at the same time.

The industry took exception to the finding.

"Based on these findings, the real story is that HBCD was not detected in the majority of the samples, and in those where it was, it was well below levels where one might see adverse health effects," says Bryan Goodman, a spokesperson for the North American Flame Retardant Alliance of the American Chemistry Council.

The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

HBCD in Foods: Study Details

The researchers bought the foods from Dallas supermarkets in 2009 and 2010. They tested all 36 samples for HBCD.

Fifteen of the 36 samples, or 42%, had detectable levels of HBCDs. Some of these 15 samples were the same foods, but from different stores.

The foods with detectable levels include:

  • Sardines in water
  • Smoked turkey sausages (three samples)
  • Fresh salmon (two different samples)
  • Sardines in olive oil (two samples)
  • Fresh catfish (three samples)
  • Fresh deli-sliced turkey (one of three)
  • Fresh deli-sliced ham (one of two)
  • Fresh tilapia (one of three)
  • Chili with beans (one of three)

Twenty-one other samples tested that did not have detectable HBCD levels included:

  • Creamy peanut butter (three samples)
  • Chili with beans (two of three samples)
  • Bacon (three samples)
  • Fresh deli-sliced beef (three samples)
  • Fresh deli-sliced turkey (two of three samples)
  • Fresh deli-sliced chicken (two samples)
  • Fresh tilapia (two of three samples)
  • Fish sticks (three samples)
  • Fresh deli-sliced ham (one of two)

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