The study followed nearly 300 women from pregnancy to when their
children were 7 years old. Researchers tested mother's levels
and then the children's levels for the flame retardant compound
polybrominated diphenyl ethers, known as PBDEs. They wanted to
assess in utero effect as well as childhood exposure, says lead
researcher and UC Berkeley epidemiologist Brenda
ESKENAZI: "The children's levels are actually seven times higher than in a comparable group of children living in Mexico."
Eskenazi says those levels are typical of California kids.
A state laws from the 70s required that consumer furnishings meet
flame resistance standards. But as studies have identified
health risks associated with flame retardants, many have been
banned. Some PBDEs were banned in 2004, but are still
commonly found in home furnishings, carpets, upholstery and
ESKENAZI: "And so what we found is that there was a relationship of maternal, and or child's PBDE levels, and poor performance on fine-motor coordination -- but not gross motor coordination -- and IQ and attention."
Eskenazi says the work supports earlier findings from animal studies, and to date it's the largest and most comprehensive study examining links from these chemicals to brain and behavioral problems.
She says it's too soon to say what these findings mean for the children's long-term health.