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E-M:/ More on flame retardants - A public health crisis say experts



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Enviro-Mich message from Tracey Easthope <tracey@ecocenter.org>
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The following Scripps Howard article appeared today, nicely
coinciding with a new PIRGIM report on the hazards of flame retardants.
Michigan should again lead the region in taking action on this
critical emerging issue.



"Anything we do that degrades the quality of the perfect food (human
breast milk) is just a colossal biological mistake..."
Richard Jackson, senior adviser to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.

http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/national/article/0,1406,KNS_350_2662072,00.h
tml

Scripps Howard News Service
February 18, 2004

An emerging health crisis involving flame retardants
By JOAN LOWY
February 17, 2004

Scientists are warning that the accumulation of toxic flame retardants
in people is verging on a public health crisis.

The greatest risk is that the chemicals will interfere with fetal brain
development, causing learning, memory and behavioral problems in the
children of women who have accumulated high amounts of the chemicals.

The retardants, known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), have
been measured in the breast milk of hundreds of European and American
women. The average level in American women is 75 times higher than the
average level in European women, possibly reflecting stricter
fire-safety standards and greater commercial use of the chemicals in the
United States.

Some scientists said they fear that PBDEs, when coupled with other
established contaminants known to interfere with brain development in
the fetus like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxin, may
jeopardize the safety of breastfeeding and important sources of
nutrition like fish.

"This appears to be a public health crisis, possibly an emergency," said
Arnold Schecter, a professor of public health at the University of
Texas-Houston Health Sciences Center who has been researching human
exposure to flame retardants.

"We know in America that a nursing baby is consuming dioxins, PCBs,
furans, brominated flame retardants and other chemicals," Schecter said.
"We cannot keep adding toxic chemicals in increased amounts without
feeling great concern over the continued safety of nursing."

Other public health experts said the benefits of breastfeeding - which
can prevent disease through immunities passed from mother to child and
enhance brain development - strongly outweigh the risks from flame
retardants.

Nevertheless, even supporters of continued breastfeeding expressed deep
concern about the buildup of contaminants.

"Anything we do that degrades the quality of the perfect food (human
breast milk) is just a colossal biological mistake," said Richard
Jackson, senior adviser to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.

snip


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