Exposure to Flame Retardant Chemicals Linked to Aggressive Behavior in Children


While flame retardant was created to keep people safer by preventing fire from spreading, it may actually pose a different kind of danger. According to a new study published in Environmental Health, flame-retardant chemicals can have an adverse effect on child behavior.

Never before has a connection between flame-retardant chemicals and behavioral patterns been studied, but the results of this new study suggest that the correlation does exist.

Credit: Mindaugas Danys/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

According to the recent findings from Oregon State University, children who have been exposed to commonly used flame-retardant chemicals are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior such as bullying and defiance, as well as inattention and hyperactivity.

Using specially designed wristbands, the team from Oregon State University, led by Professor Molly Kile, performed the study using 92 children between the ages of three and five. The wristbands, when worn by the child, picked up any trace of chemicals that they may be exposed to in their daily lives. According to these wristbands, all of the children were exposed to some sort of chemical flame retardant regularly.

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For the children who had the most exposure to these chemicals, their behavior was noticeably more aggressive. In some cases, their teachers even reported instances of bullying.

“This is an intriguing finding because no one had previously studied the behavioral effects of organophosphate classes of flame retardants, which have been added to consumer products more recently,” said Kile.

By law, home sofas contain flame-retardant chemicals. Credit: madgerly/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

There have been some concerns raised about the widespread addition of flame retardant to household products, particularly about the unintended effect they may have on a person’s health. Flame retardant is found in almost all manufactured materials, such as textiles and plastics. It was made to suppress the life of a flame, preventing fire from catching and spreading within the home.

However, constant exposure to these chemicals is shown more and more to be negatively affecting health both physically and mentally. For example, Harvard Health found that exposure to flame retardant was linked to thyroid issues in women. In another instance, it was found that higher exposure correlated with lower income and higher BMI among participants.

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“The results of this research to date have shown potential impacts for child health and warrant a more thorough investigation,” said Kile. “If scientists find strong evidence that exposure to flame retardants affects children’s behaviors, we can develop strategies that prevent these exposures and help improve children’s lives. This type of public health science is needed to figure out how to address the root causes of behavioral concerns that can affect children’s school readiness and overall well-being.”

Especially at such a young age, the development of social behavior is incredibly important. If exposure to these chemicals plays a factor, it can be well worth it to avoid too much exposure. More research is sure to come, as these findings bring to light an issue not previously identified.