Obesity, anxiety and developmental and reproductive problems have all been linked to small quantities of a flame retardant frequently used in furniture and baby products, according to a recent, limited study on rats by researchers at Duke University. Baby rats with mothers that ingested small amounts of the chemical Firemaster 550
gained more weight than those that weren’t exposed, and exposed female offspring displayed more anxiety, reached puberty earlier and exhibited abnormal reproductive cycles.
Study co-author Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental chemistry at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, is a leading expert on flame retardants, particularly children’s exposure to the toxic chemicals they can release. She specifically notes that the new research assessed exposure to doses far lower than those of earlier studies. “This raises red flags about a widely used chemical that we know little about,” advises Stapleton. “What we do know is that it’s common in house dust, and people, especially kids, are being exposed to it.”
“Firemaster 550 was put on the market with almost no study,” says Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which funded the new research. She says the preliminary findings strongly suggest the need for more studies.