Tiny doses of flame retardant have health impact, study finds
By Michael Hawthorne
Published June 05, 2012
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Small doses of a flame retardant commonly added to furniture can trigger obesity, anxiety and developmental problems, according to the first independent study of a chemical promoted as safe by industry and government officials.
Baby rats whose mothers ate tiny amounts of the chemical, known as Firemaster 550, gained significantly more weight than others that weren't exposed, according to a presentation today at a scientific conference in Winnipeg.
The chemical made the female offspring more anxious, prompted early puberty and caused abnormal reproductive cycles.
The new research, described by its authors as a small pilot study to help direct future work, also found that Firemaster 550 altered levels of thyroid hormones in the animals. The finding concerns researchers studying how industrial chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking or blocking natural hormones during critical stages of development.
"This raises red flags about a widely used chemical that we know little about," said co-author Heather Stapleton, a Duke University chemist. "What we do know is it's common in house dust and that people, especially kids, are being exposed to it."
Keep up with the Chicago Tribune investigation on flame retardants: