Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Research Focus: Duke University studies of exposure to flame retardants

In recent months, some well-publicized findings have come out of Duke University regarding children's exposure to flame retardants.  In April, news articles highlighted research conducted by Dr. Heather Stapleton that found a variety of toxic chemicals, including flame retardants, in many widely-used baby products.  Dr. Stapleton likened the presence of the chemicals in these products to lead paint exposures that occured before the use of lead paint was banned.  She further suggests that it is possible to avoid flame retardant-laden products by avoiding products with labels that state that the product is compliant with California's flame retardant requirements.  (As a parent, this is very helpful, as I will now actively seek out products online and in catalogues that are labeled "Not available in California".)

Another study coming out of Duke has been in the news in recent days.  In this study, also overseen by Dr. Stapleton, exposure to toxic chemicals including flame retardants was shown to vary by socioeconomic status and race.  In other words, kids who are poor or minorities were significantly more likely to have higher concentrations of toxic chemicals in their bodies.  In fact, compared to white children, minority children were shown to have almost double the amount of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in their blood.  Even more fascinating is that the disparitiy could not be explained simply by differences in the children's current home environments. 

For more information about this and other similar research studies at Duke, visit this link.  Of course, from a grants perspective, I am very impressed that so much press and public awareness has been generated by a project that was started with only a $2.2 million NIH grant.

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