The headline on a recent article screamed “UC flame-retardant study finds risks for kids.” However, the article, written by Marla Cone in SF Gate, makes no such assertion, therefore, whoever wrote the misleading headline needs to be educated. “The study in question did not find any actual risks for kids. Instead, it was simply a biomonitoring study, and all it found was that U.S.-born children had higher levels of flame retardants than kids born elsewhere,” explains ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. And there’s even a simple explanation for that: “U.S. laws require a higher degree of fire safety than other countries, so for instance in California, furniture foam must withstand 12 seconds of flame without catching fire, therefore, it will logically contain more polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a type of flame retardant.”
The study itself was conducted by another group of researchers from the University of California-Berkeley, who apparently set off to prove how “dangerous” flame-retardants are. They found that 264 Mexican-American children from the Salinas Valley in California had seven times higher levels of flame retardants in their blood compared to 283 children in Mexico, and three times higher than their own mothers.
Even though the authors admit that the higher levels seen in Mexican-American children may be due to an “unintended consequence of government regulation,” they don’t point out that more lives have actually been saved by the increased use of PBDEs. “Though flame retardants have never been shown to cause any adverse human health effects, on the flip side, they have been shown to save lives by preventing deaths during fires,” notes ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.