Flame Retardant Triggers Health Risks at Low Doses, Study Says

Even small doses of a flame retardant commonly used in furniture and baby products has been linked to harmful health effects, including obesity and developmental and reproductive problems, according to a new study. Speaking at a conference in Canada, Duke University chemist Heather Stapleton said baby rats whose mothers ate small amounts of the flame-retardant chemical, Firemaster 550, gained more weight than those that weren’t exposed. Female offspring exposed to the chemical were more anxious, reached puberty earlier, and were shown to have abnormal reproductive cycles. While earlier studies found that harmful effects were evident only at doses of 50 milligrams per kilogram of weight, the new study assessed exposure to doses as low as 3 milligrams per kilogram. “This raises red flags about a widely used chemical that we know little about,” said Stapleton, co-author of the study. According to the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency next year will conduct a risk assessment of two brominated compounds found in Firemaster 550.