Since some research suggests flame retardants could cause developmental problems - one type of organophosphate flame retardant (PFR) is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - companies have been offering to reduce their use in response to public concerns (real and manufactured.)
A new paper in Environmental Science&Technology finds that infants could potentially be affected the most and looks at potential exposure routes.
Organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs) were successors to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were phased out in 2005 out of concern for associated health risks. Both were implemented because of concerns about furniture that could catch fire. Since PFRs are still often used in strollers, nursing pillows and a number of other baby products, Heather M. Stapleton and colleagues wanted to see whether infants were getting exposed, too.
The researchers tested urine from more than 40 infants between 2 months and 18 months old. Byproducts of some PFRs were in most samples and at concentrations higher than has been reported in adults. The team found that infants with higher levels lived in homes with more than 16 baby products, such as bouncers and swings. Also, compared to infants in home care, infants in daycare centers had higher levels of one particular metabolite.
The researchers said additional studies would be needed to further flesh out whether flame retardants are getting inhaled or ingested through dust, what levels could affect babies' health and how to reduce their exposure.