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Household chemicals linked to disease in cats may be harmful to children

householddiseasecats.jpgChemicals used as fire retardants, PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers), which are found in many household items such as televisions, computers, toasters and sofas, have been linked to disease in cats. These chemicals are now being found in high concentrations in human blood and breast milk, which is potentially a major health concern for humans.

Research by University of California scientists has shown similarities between PBDEs and PCBs, whose manufacture was discontinued in 1977 because of health risks. Like PCBs, PBDEs have been found to alter calcium signaling in the brain, which is critical to learning, memory and the regulation of hormones.

Long term exposure to these chemicals may pose health risks particularly to infants and toddlers, who are more likely to ingest them in household dust or through mother’s milk, claims Margarita Curras-Collazo, an associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience at UC Riverside.

Because PBDEs are used as flame retardants, the volume of the chemicals in household goods is higher in states such as California, which have particularly stringent flammatory regulations for these products.

PBDEs are currently found in air, water and soil as well as in wildlife and supermarket foods. Some forms of the chemical are subject to a ban that will take effect this month (January, 2008) but others are not.

This past summer, researchers reported in Toxicological Sciences that PBDEs, like long ago banned PCBs, can disrupt the neuroendocrine system, thus interfering with body water regulation and cardiovascular function. Due to our frequent use of computers and other electronic equipment, as well as car and airplane travel, the harmful chemicals bioaccumulate, increasing their concentration in human and animal tissues over time.

Curras-Collazo and her fellow researchers continue to study the harmful effects of PBDEs on the human body.

Carl Cranor, professor of philosophy at UCR states that “We need a different legal strategy”, when it comes to chemical regulations in this country. Alarmingly, 80-90% of industrial chemicals which are used in commercial products are sold without any legally required premarket testing.

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