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Study: MA Pre-Schoolers “Non-Flammable?”

September 5, 2008

Boston, MA – It's in furniture, televisions and computers - and in babies' bodies, too? The first nationwide study of
chemical fire retardants in the systems of toddlers and preschoolers has found levels three times higher in their bodies, than the levels recorded in their mothers' bodies.

The group of chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs) are listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as possible carcinogens, linked to liver, brain and kidney damage, as well as behavior changes. Rep. Frank Smizik, Chairman of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, says the research bolsters efforts to set state laws to protect the smallest citizens.

"We have to require the chemical industry to use safer alternatives. We have a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature that has a system for doing that."

The Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to support the bill last session, but the measure didn't reach the House floor in time. Smizik considers it "unfinished business" to tackle early next year.

The Environmental Working Group performed the tests on children and mothers in Massachusetts and nine other areas around the country. The full study can be viewed online, at

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has standards for "safe" levels of PDBEs, Smizik points out that the agency does not enforce them. He believes now is the time for states to step in.

"Children are most susceptible to toxic chemicals because their bodies are developing."

There's already a ban on PDBEs in the European Union. The companies that produce these fire retardants say the chemicals have been thoroughly tested, and declare them safe for human use.

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MA