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Recent research indicates that flame retardants, which have been utilized in thousands of consumer products in the United States for decades, might heighten the risk of cancer-related mortality. The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, examined the blood levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in 1,100 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 2003 and 2004. Researchers found that individuals with the highest PBDE levels in their blood had about a 300% increased risk of dying from cancer compared to those with the lowest levels.

While the study established a significant link between PBDE exposure and cancer-related mortality, it could not pinpoint specific cancer types due to data limitations. However, this research builds upon previous studies associating various flame retardants with cancer risk, contributing to the advancement of scientific understanding in this area.

Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor at NYU Langone Health who investigates the impact of chemicals on health, emphasized the significance of this study’s findings. He noted that PBDEs have long half-lives, persisting in the human body for years, which implies that their impact on health will endure for some time.

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On the other hand, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, representing companies involved in flame retardant production, emphasized the importance of sound scientific research in evaluating the risks associated with PBDEs. They stressed the commitment of the industry to the responsible production and use of flame retardants to protect public health and the environment.

PBDEs, recognized as endocrine disruptors, disrupt the body’s hormonal balance and have been linked to various health issues, including impaired blood sugar metabolism, gestational diabetes, obesity, thyroid disorders, certain cancers, reproductive problems, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Exposure to PBDEs is widespread in the United States, with most individuals exhibiting higher levels compared to Europeans.

Flame retardants are incorporated into various products, including furniture, electronics, and baby items, to reduce the risk of fire. While some PBDEs have been phased out, newer flame retardants have raised concerns about potential health risks. Exposure to these chemicals occurs through contaminated household dust, consumer products, and food residues.

Despite efforts to remove PBDEs from products, some manufacturers continue to use them, necessitating consumer awareness and proactive measures to minimize exposure. Suggestions include inspecting product labels, covering items treated with flame retardants, and using protective equipment during refurbishment tasks. Regular cleaning practices, such as vacuuming with a HEPA filter, can also help reduce exposure to PBDEs.

In conclusion, the study highlights the potential health risks associated with PBDE exposure and underscores the importance of continued research and regulatory measures to protect public health from harmful chemicals.

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