PBDE study spotlights need for junk science retardants

While flame retardants “work silently to safeguard the public and fire fighters and reduce injuries and property damage from fires,” the junk science mob is noisily working to have them banned for no good reason.

A new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives reports that first generation Mexican children in California had higher serum levels of polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are used as flame retardants, than their counterparts in Mexico.

The “researchers” 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.

Of course, mere exposure doesn’t equate to toxicity and the explanation for the difference in serum levels is likely that California has more stringent flammability standards than Mexico.

Moving on to the self-debunking assertion that there is “growing evidence documenting potential health effects of PBDE exposure,” just how does one document a potential health effect? Considering the paper’s four cited studies, not very well.

  • In the December 2009 EHP study “Prenatal exposure to organohalogens, including brominated flame retardants, influences motor, cognitive, and behavioral performance at school age,” the “researchers” reported that, “Brominated flame retardants correlated with worse fine manipulative abilities, worse attention, better coordination, better visual perception, and better behavior.” But aside from correlation not equating to causation and the “researchers” failure to consider the multifactorial nature of development, the reported results are obviously somewhat contradictory.
  • In the May 2010 EHP study “PBDE concentrations in women’s serum and fecundability,” the “researchers” marginally correlated “longer time to pregnancy” with individual PBDE congeners, but there was no correlation when all congeners were combined — which is how more than 97 percent of the women were exposed. The multifactorial nature of “time to pregnancy” was not explored and PBDE levels were not correlated with menstrual cycles.
  • In the May 2010 EHP study “Prenatal exposure to PBDEs and neurodevelopment,” the “researchers” studied children delivered in lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and absurdly tried to correlate PBDE exposure to multifactorial development issues.
  • In the October 2010 EHP study “Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants and thyroid hormone during pregnancy,” the researchers tried to correlate serum PBDE levels with lower thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. Even making the huge assumption for the sake of argument that the serum PBDE levels did lower TDH levels, there’s no evidence that any fetal harm was caused.

It’s safe to say that these studies document nothing except that these “researchers” are anxious to smear PBDE-containing flame retardants with crappy correlations. The fact that they all appear in the junk science-oriented Environmental Health Perspectives, and that four of them involve long-time, anti-chemical jihadists Brenda Eskenazi and Frederica Perera is further indication of a smear-PBDE-machine at work.

11 thoughts on “PBDE study spotlights need for junk science retardants”

  1. While it’s nice to say that people need to do their homework on the controversy surrounding PBDEs in the environment, it would behoove you to apply the same level of criticism towards the effectiveness of flame retardants in the first place. Their track record is far from clear. Linking to a report from a group with an agenda similar to yours is not clear evidence.

    “The American Fire Safety Council (AFSC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving fire safety through enhancement of fire codes and standards and promoting responsible use of flame retardants and flame retardant products.”

    Dig deeper and you will find that performance tests are very different from real fires. Maybe the use of fire retardants helped slow the fire progression within the aircraft. Maybe improved design inside the cabin helped slow its progression. Maybe just luck did. No two fires are alike. Anything within the extremes is possible and should not be discounted for the easy answer.

  2. If the media and consumers would just do a little homework, they would know who to believe and how important flame retardants are in saving lives everyday around the world.

  3. There are 10 authors (how many pages each author wrote?) The stars mark the authors that appear on the four cited studies. The conclusion is clear: There is only one independent cited article. TEN persons could have found at least 10 articles!!!

    01 – Brenda Eskenazi **
    02 – Laura Fenster
    03 – Rosemary Castorina
    04 – Amy R. Marks *
    05 – Andreas Sjödin ***
    06 – Lisa Goldman Rosas
    07 – Nina Holland
    08 – Armando Garcia Guerra
    09 – Lizbeth López-Carrillo
    10 – Asa Bradman **

  4. It is pretty amazing that 25 years after Bruce Ames, the scientist who first raised health issues concerning brominated flame retardants, recanted his objections, we have eco-zealots still beating this anti-chemical Luddite drum. Ames in fact did a complete about-face on their use in clothing. He recognised that although some of them tested positive in his mutagenicity test the risks to humans from them were much less than risks from naturally occurring (non-synthetic) mutagens that continually surround us.
    Ames also recognised that death and injury, particularly to children, from burning clothing were commonplace – real health issues, not illusions.

  5. Some years ago the powers that be decided that for a country to stay ahead in the race, their children should up their education – today we have millions of people leaving universities and no where for them to sensibly be employed -is it any wonder then that all these pseudo scientific groups made up from those with some form of degree, cruising lawyers and accountants etc etc etc are now daily stirring the pot for recognition but mainly funding. You talk of NGOs but how many of these are being financed by administrations via the back door to carry on their insidious campaigns (tongue in cheek comment – In my day these stirrers would have been told to go out and get a proper job!)

  6. The asbestos scare is another overhyped “Problem” Use of asbestos was discontinued during the construction of the World Trade Center. Possibly one or both of the towers would not have fallen had Asbestos been used throughout.

  7. Did anyone interview their “Mexican counterparts” who ended up burned to death, in order to get their viewpoints on the record as well?

  8. “the health consequences of these chemical replacements should be investigated and weighed against their purported fire safety benefits.”
    So how many people die annually and directly in preventable fires vis-a-vis how many people die annually and directly from the consequences of PBDE-exposure?
    The highest (non-theological) value humans possess is the value of human life. Prioritizing the allocation of resources would *require* allocations be made first and foremost where those resources could be used to save lives.
    I contend that fire prevention is a higher priority than PBDE mitigation.

  9. What will the eco-nazis say when the kids die in flaming mattresses? We have to put a stop to this nonsense!

  10. Given 90% of our cells come from other sources and we have all kinds of junk in our systems, but excrete it every day as feces, urine, sweat and exhalent it seems rather odd that we should be concerned about a few molecules of some stuff designed to be innocuous. This is probably more panic power BS like that over DDT, Freon(tm) and CO2.

    For ideas, science and humor see The Two Minute Conservative at: http://adrianvance.blogspot.com for radio/TV hosts, opinion page editors and you. Also on Kindle daily.

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