Flame Retardant Exposure May Harm Fertility
Study Finds High PBDE Levels in Blood Double Time to Get Pregnant
Flame Retardant Exposure and Time to Pregnancy: Expert Views
The new study backs up some lab findings, says Sonya Lunder, a senior
analyst at the Environmental Working Group, which has also studied the
Of the results, she says: “A 50% decrease in the odds of becoming pregnant
The study is scientifically sound, says Ruthann Rudel, director of research
for Silent Spring Institute, a Boston-based organization that conducts research
on environmental factors affecting women's health.
The researchers controlled for other factors that may affect fertility, she
says, such as pesticide exposure, and still found an effect of the
Flame Retardant Exposure: Industry Weighs In
A representative from the flame retardant industry took exception to the
findings. ''The study is limited to penta and octa-[PBDEs] and does not include
deca, the only PBDE currently in use," says John Kyte, a spokesman for the
Bromine Science and Environmental Forum, an industry group based in Washington,
As a result, he says, ''the study is not applicable to all PBDEs or to PBDEs
generally." Each of the PBDE forms is different, he says.
He says penta and octa-PBDEs are no longer in use in the U.S., so exposure
to them should decline over time.
Response to Industry View
In response, Harley says that deca (also known as BDE-209) was not measured
because the CDC lab didn't have the analytical capability to measure it at the
time of the study. ''So we have no idea what the deca levels are in these
women," she says.
Although it is true the PBDEs found to be associated with delayed time to
pregnancy in her study have been banned, she says many older products still
contain the penta chemicals ''and we expect that our exposure to penta will
continue over the next several years."
Flame Retardants: Advice for Women
Even though penta and octa-PBDEs have been phased out, Harley says they
remain in older household furniture and can still leach out.
She can't specify a ''safe'' level of exposure based on her study, but she
and others suggest that women follow a few simple steps to reduce exposure.
Two main sources of the chemicals are found in food and in household
products. "Choose meat, fish, and dairy lower in fat," she says. The compounds
are fat-soluble, she says.
Don't reupholster foam-filled furniture yourself, Lunder says. The PBDEs are
in the foam and can leach out. Limit exposure to old carpet padding, which is
often recycled foam, she says.
''When you are replacing carpet, get women and children out of the house,"
she says. The exposure concern is not limited to its effect on fertility, but
also to children's development.
Harley is now focusing on the effects of PBDE exposure on the children.