Blood levels of Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) among Mexican-American children living in California are considerably higher than in Mexican children who live across the border, researchers from the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at the University of California, Berkeley, revealed in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

As background information, the authors explain that PBDEs, which are used as flame retardants in a wide range of products, including upholstered furniture, child car seats, crib mattresses, and carpet pads, have been found to be higher among people living in California than in other parts of the United States.

Brenda Eskenazi and team set out to determine what impact emigrating from Mexico to California had on Mexican children’s serum levels of PBDE. They compared PBDE concentration among 264 first-generation Mexican-American children aged 7 years, with 283 children aged 5 years who were raised in Mexico from birth (and still live in Mexico).

The researchers found that:

  • PBDE serum concentrations among the Californian Mexican-American kids were three times higher than their mothers’ when they were pregnant
  • PBDE serum concentrations among the Californian Mexican-American kids were 7 times higher than their Mexican-Mexican counterparts (kids born, raised and still living in Mexico)
  • Such factors as how long the pregnant mother had lived in California, whether the child was breast fed, or how long the child was breastfed had no impact on the results

The experts believe that post-natal exposure is what determines these children’s PBDE serum concentrations.

In an abstract in Environmental Health Perspectives, the authors concluded:

“Latino children living in California have much higher PBDE serum levels than their Mexican counterparts. Given the growing evidence documenting potential health effects of PBDE exposure, the levels in young children noted in this study potentially present a major public health challenge, especially in California.

In addition, as PBDEs are being phased out and replaced by other flame retardants, the health consequences of these chemical replacements should be investigated and weighed against their purported fire safety benefits.”

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE or PBDEs) are organobromine compounds. Humans use them as flame retardants in a wide range of products, including:

  • airplanes
  • automobiles
  • building materials
  • electronics
  • furniture
  • plastics
  • polyurethane foams
  • textiles

Health hazards associated with PBDE have attracted a great deal of attention. They have been linked to reduced fertility in humans, as well as thyroid problems. PBDE industrial production is to be eliminated because of their toxicity and persistence, under the Stockholm Convention, a treaty to eventually phase out POP (persistent organic pollutants).

“A Comparison of PBDE Serum Concentrations in Mexican and Mexican-American Children Living in California”
Brenda Eskenazi, Laura Fenster, Rosemary Castorina, Amy R. Marks, Andreas Sjödin, Lisa Goldman Rosas, Nina Holland, Armando Garcia Guerra, Lizbeth López-Carrillo, Asa Bradman
Environ Health Perspect :-. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002874

Written by Christian Nordqvist