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Babies are receiving trace amounts of flame-retardants, which have been banned in America for over a decade, through umbilical cord blood from their mothers, a study based in Indiana University has found. These chemicals could create health complications and concerns, such as hormone disruption and low birth weight.

In 2004 the commonly used flame-retardants PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, usually found in building materials, electronics and textiles were banned because the chemicals were found to leach into the environment.

This research is said to be one of the few in the U.S. that has detected the presence of PBDEs in mother-infant umbilical cord blood samples.

Among the researchers was Amina Salamova, from the IU School of the Public and Environmental Affairs, who highlighted her main concerns. She explained that higher levels of PBDEs were consistently found in the infants, indicating that the babies most likely have higher concentrations of such potentially neurotoxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals than their mothers.

Consistent with other studies, high levels of the BDE-47 chemical was also detected in the infant blood. It’s speculated that this is due to its recent use until 2004 by manufacturers of foam-filled household products such as sofas and mattresses that remain in many homes today.

The study was conducted at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxvilleon, on 10 mother-infant pairs. Additional tubes of blood were drawn from the mothers while they were in active labour and when they were at delivery stage.

It has not been determined whether the babies in this study who were found to be exposed to the chemicals were harmed, however, the team warned that follow-up studies are essential to determine whether health varies as a result of varying PBDE levels,” Salamova said.