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Flame Retardant Found in Some Common Foods

Researchers Test 36 Food Samples, Detect Flame Retardant in 15

Flame Retardants in Foods: Discussion continued...

"For HBCD, we really have very limited measurements," says Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, a study co-researcher and director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program.

"These are the first and only measurements of the three types of HBCDs in the U.S. food supply," she says. The researchers measured alpha, beta and gamma forms.

"The levels are still very low," she says of their findings. "But this is a very small study looking at a limited number of foods.''

"We really don't know how broadly representative this might be of American foods in general. They are persistent chemicals. They are going to last in our bodies a long time."

Flame Retardants in Foods: Environmentalists' View

Environmentalists have expressed concern about HBCD for at least a decade, says Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group.

"I think this [study] is important," she says.

The EPA action plan has been lagging, she says. The accumulation of environmental chemicals is a growing concern, she says.

While the new study focuses just on HBCDs, it's the mixture of complex chemicals people are exposed to that is of even greater concern, she says. "Whether this chemical alone or in combination with others is enough to make us sick is a complicated question," she says.

"Overall, reducing our production and use of persistent and toxic chemicals has got to be the goal," she tells WebMD.

Flame Retardants in Foods: Industry Response

In a statement, Goodman of the American Chemistry Council also says that the authors note that human exposure from the foods that were studied is well below critical-effect levels.

The results, he adds, "should not pose a concern for human health."

The study results, he tells WebMD, don't focus on what he calls the big picture -- that the chemicals were found in less than half of the samples.

Flame Retardants In Foods: Advice

For now, says Schecter, the take-home advice is an old message. "I think the lesson is what we've been saying in public health for a long time," he says. "More fruits and vegetables are going to be good for most of us. Animal fats should be eaten less than the average American eats them."

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