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Flame Retardants Linked to ADHD

ADHD continues to rise. The latest number from the CDC indicate that 9.5% of children under the age of 17 have been diagnosed with the disorder. Just like other ailments and disorders, there are a variety of environmental and genetic links to ADHD – the most recent being flame retardants.


Flame retardants (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers – PBDEs) are widely used in the United States in products such as baby strollers, carpeting, furniture and electronics. These items release PBDEs and the dust settles in the lungs of men, women and children alike.

Effect of Flame Retardants (PBDEs) on Children

A recent study out of Columbia University found that prenatal exposure to PBDEs is strongly correlated with ADHD. In fact children with higher levels of PBDE exposure were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD then those with lower levels.

Environmental Health Perspectives also studied prenatal exposure of PBDEs on children and observed that the higher the exposure to PBDEs in mothers and children, the lower the children scored on the reasoning, verbal and IQ tests. In addition, these children were more likely to have problems with attention and a higher probability of ADHD

Another study published in Neurotoxicology and Teratology found that California children’s exposure to PBDEs are among the highest measured worldwide. Researchers discovered that this exposure is associated with deficits in attention, processing speed, fine motor coordination and cognition in children ages 5-12 years old. The researchers state “Our results suggest that the prefrontal cortex may be a potential target for PBDE exposure and add to a growing literature showing that these ubiquitous toxicants may adversely affect neurodevelopment.”

Why are levels higher in California’s Children?

California has strict fire safety codes and most manufacturers strive to meet California’s Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) standard that requires raw foam to withstand a candle-like flame for 12 seconds. This means higher levels of PBDE dust exposure for California kids. In fact, research indicates that the only levels in literature seen higher than California children blood levels are children living on a hazardous waste site in Nicaragua.

However, since manufacturers do not like to have different products for different states, they are moving to having all products meet California’s standards, having health implications for children and adults in other states.

Reducing Exposure to Flame Retardants

  1. If you live outside of California, avoid buying items labeled California TB117 as these will have higher amounts of flame retardants than those required in your state. If you live in California, ask about the foam inside the furniture and how it is wrapped to reduce dust exposure.
  2. Use a HEPA filter vacuum and a mop to reduce dust.
  3. Reduce the use of rugs and carpets if possible.
  4. Cell phones and remote controls contain flame retardants, so avoid giving them to children to play with.
  5. Wash your hands frequently.

Detoxifying from Flame Retardants

The good news is there are things you can to reduce your body’s burden of flame retardants.

  1. Eating organic, nutritious food will help reduce the exposure to other toxins contained in pesticides.
  2. Infrared sauna helps the body to sweat the flame retardants out of fat where it is stored. It is important to do this with a professional who is familiar with the protocol.
  3. There are homeopathics (flame retardant detox) and supplements (liver and kidney support) that can help children and adults reduce their body burden.

If your child has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, it is important to look at all exposure including lead and PBDEs. As a mother and a grandmother, children’s health is a priority. Please phone me at 310-577-0852 for a free 15 minute free nutrition consultation. By adopting clean eating and appropriate detoxification support, children can and do make progress!









Compiled and written by Debbie Lindgren