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Flame Retardant Chemicals Linked To Lower IQs In Kids

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Flame retardants are in couches and many consumer products and no San Francisco is trying to outright ban them.

Over the years there have been dozens of studies of how they affect our health, but a new study takes that information and puts it all together, to reveal some frightening effects.

A new study says flame retardant chemicals can harm children's intelligence

Dr. Tracey Woodruff, the director of UCSF's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment said, "Everybody's exposed to these chemical flame retardants and so it's really important to understand what they might be doing."

Dr. Woodruff's part of the team that just released a study on the effects of flame retardant chemicals on children.

"So these studies followed children up until about five to seven years of age to see how it affected their neurodevelopment, essentially their IQ and their potential for ADHD," Dr. Woodruff explained.

The new study analyzes previous studies to get a big picture of the data. They focused on one flame retardant, known as PBDE.

Dr. Woodruff said, "We found that women who were exposed to higher levels of flame retardant chemicals, their children were more at risk for having lower IQ. For about a 10-fold increase in the levels, we saw about a 3.7 drop in IQ."

Bryan Goodman with the American Chemistry Council points out that PBDE was banned in 2004.

He said, "This particular study looked at a group of flame retardants that were phased out many years ago."

Goodman said, "Flame retardants that are currently on the market are subject to review by the U.S. E.P.A. and regulatory bodies around the world."

But products manufactured before 2004 could still be in stores.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell isn't taking any chances, he's introduced legislation to ban the sale of items with any flame retardant in San Francisco.

"They've proven actually not to reduce fires, they've actually proven only to cause diseases including cancer and other types of forms of fatal diseases amongst adults and kids. That's why we're banning them," Farrell said.

He says the chemical lobby has been too powerful for too long

Farrell said, "We're doing this as a reaction to the chemical industry's lobby over the course of the past few decades in our state and standing up and protecting the health of San Francisco residents and our kids in our city."

Dr. Woodruff said, "I was surprised to see that these chemicals that, sometimes the industry claims are safe are actually really not safe and actually can be a problem for children."

The San Francisco bill has a lot of support and is likely to succeed.

We talked to the deputy director with the Green Policy Center and she said the chemicals are mostly spread through dust, so clean and dust often and wash your hands frequently. She also says new couches have a tag saying whether or not they were made with flame retardant chemicals. If your product doesn't have a tag, you can call the manufacturer to find out.

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