The levels found in the California women are still higher than those reported in other contemporary groups of U.S. pregnant women, Zota said. Low-income and minority communities seem to have higher exposures. In addition, Californians are believed to have the highest levels in the world, largely due to the state’s flammability standard for furniture.
While levels of PBDEs may be decreasing, newer flame retardants, such as Firemaster 550, another brominated compound, have been going up, according to earlier research. The authors of the new study did not test the women for newer flame retardants.
“We don’t know as much about the health effects of replacement flame retardants, but few studies have shown that these new chemicals may also disrupt hormone function,” said Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist at Duke University.
Also, another PBDE, known as deca, still is found in many electronic products. Its use has been banned in the United States but “deca is very stable in the environment and its use far exceeds that of banned PBDEs,” Birnbaum said.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.