Health Hazards of Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals in Everyday Products: Current Scientific Evidence and the Need for Protective Public Health Policies

January 26, 2011 @ 10:00am (AKST)

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely used flame retardant chemicals found at high levels in home furniture, electronics, insulation, and other products.

PBDEs are persistent and bioaccumulative and have therefore become ubiquitous environmental contaminants. PBDEs are not permanently bound to the products in which they are used and can be released into the indoor and outdoor environments, contaminating our air, water, and foods, and building up in the fatty tissues of animals and humans. PBDEs have the potential to act as endocrine disruptors.

Mounting research suggests that flame retardants may cause neurological and reproductive harm, thyroid disruption, and cancer. The PBDEs that have accumulated in women may be passed to children during pregnancy and through breast feeding. Research by Julie B. Herbstman and her colleagues at Columbia University found that children who had higher umbilical cord blood concentrations of PBDEs scored lower on tests of mental and motor development at 1-4 and 6 years of age.

Recently, 145 prominent scientists from 22 countries signed a first-ever consensus statement documenting health hazards from flame retardant chemicals. The San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants documents how this pervasive class of chemicals is likely to cause serious health harm and limited fire safety benefits.

Join us for a teleconference discussion on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 to:

  • Hear the most up-to-date scientific concerns about toxic flame retardant chemicals from biophysical chemist and co-coordinator of the San Antonio Statement, Dr. Arlene Blum.
  • Learn about the link between prenatal exposure to PBDEs and neurodevelopment from researcher Dr. Julie B. Herbstman.
  • Find out how about efforts now underway in the Alaska State Legislature to phase out PBDEs and how you can get involved.

Featured speakers

Arlene Blum PhD. Dr Blum is a biophysical chemist, author, mountaineer and Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry. She is also founder and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, an organization that brings government, industry, scientists and citizens groups together to change policy to protect health and the environment. Her past research contributed to removing cancer-causing Tris flame retardants from children’s sleep wear. Arlene  Blum led the first American­ and all-women’s­ ascent of Annapurna I, considered one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult mountains.

Julie B. Herbstman, PhD. Dr. Herbstman is an environmental epidemiologist and a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health Science at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Dr. Herbstman’s research focuses on the impact of prenatal exposures to persistent organic pollutants and procarcinogenetic chemicals on child growth and development. She also collaborates on studies involving the integration of epigenetic biomarkers to explore the mechanistic pathway between prenatal exposures and disease risk.

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