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Baby Food Flame Retardants Below Unsafe Levels
- Updated: September 18, 2014
In a new study, it was identified that baby food flame retardants are well below levels deemed to be safe. Baby food manufactured in the United States and China contains flame retardant chemicals. However, researchers with the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) just discovered that the levels are well below “safe.
Not only this, but the level of flame retardant chemicals in baby food are lower that found in other foods to include dairy products, meats, and even human breast milk. In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers made comparisons between baby food in the US and China, which is a country long known for scandals pertaining to food safety. In a 2008 incident, melamine was found in infant formula and milk coming from China, which caused 54,000 illnesses in babies and 13 deaths.
These persistent chemicals are found in textiles, plastics, and electronics, which make it difficult for the materials to catch file. However, the compounds associated with flame retardant chemicals, which includes polybrominated diphenyl ethers, have caught the attention of researchers, scientists, medical professionals, and consumers in recent years.
These ethers are commonly found in foam cushions of mattresses, chairs, and couches. According to Dr. Ronald Hites, coauthor of the study and a professor at Indiana’s University SPEA, these ethers have even been found in Artic polar bears, meaning they are virtually everywhere.
US Senator Charles Schumer from New York stated just this week that new legislation would be proposed to have 10 flame retardant chemicals in children’s products and furniture banned since new evidence shows extremely high levels of exposure are linked to cancer and developmental delays.
However, there is still limited understanding as to what levels are actually harmful to children and adults among the scientific community. As stated to Food Safety News, no one really knows the dangerous level or how the toxicology works. Even so, experts do know that flame retardants in baby food are currently below any levels known to be safe against adverse effects.
As part of the study, canned infant formula, pureed baby foods, and cereals were compared between US and China products. In general, levels were similar although high concentrations of Dechlorane Plus were found in one formula sample from China and one American sample of cereal.
The study also looked at human breast milk in American and Canadian women. Researchers found breast milk in American women had somewhat higher levels of flame retardants but this is because there are more products in the United States that contain these chemicals.
Currently, alternatives to well-established flame retardants are being created by the chemical industry but Hites warns that long-term effects of the new chemicals may not be revealed for 10 or 20 years.