High Levels of Toxics Found in Calif. Mothers

There are plenty toxins and other caustic chemicals known to the state of California to cause birth defects and other problems for expectant mothers and their unborn children. So how are polybrominated diphenyl ethers -- a flame retardant banned since 2004 -- ending up in California's pregnant women at "unprecedented levels," as the Bay Citizen reported?

These flame retardants are appearing in pregnant women in northern and central California at the highest levels ever recorded, according to a study published Wednesday by the University of California, San Francisco. The chemicals, polybrominared diphenyl ethers, also known as PBDEs, are used in furniture and many other items to meet statewide flammability requirements imposed in the 1970s. Banned in 2004, the chemicals are nonetheless present in furniture built before then -- and what's more, the chemicals aren't bound to the furniture: they dissipate into the air, and are breathed by many of us throughout the state, not just pregnant women.

“Californians, just by living and doing what they normally do, have exposures that are two to five times higher than other U.S. populations and 10 to 100 times higher than populations in Asia and Europe,” said Dr. Ami Zota, according to the Bay Citizen.

These particular chemicals cause thyroid problems. Thyroid problems can lead to brain defects, such as reduced IQs and attention deficit disorders in children, the Bay Citizen reported. In the mothers, they can lead to cardiac issues later in life.

People can wash their hands to remove the chemical-laden dust before they eat. Or we can all flee to the wilderness. Just leave your deadly couch at home.

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