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Thyroid Hormone
Not needed and highly toxic

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame-retardants were recently shown to be present at very high levels in the blood and house dust of Californians, possibly because of a unique Californian law that requires furniture to be flame-resistant. These chemicals are garnering much interest as of late because of their potential toxic health effects on humans. What are PBDEs, and why might they be toxic?

There are 209 different PBDE varieties, also called congeners. They are identical in molecular structure except that the number and/or position of bromine atoms in each congener vary. One of these congeners, pentabrominated diphenyl ether (penta), is a mixture containing congeners with four, five, and six bromine atoms. It was used extensively in polyurethane foam.

The manufacture of penta was banned by the European Union in 2003 and by the U.S. in 2004 because of increasing evidence of the congener’s toxicity in humans and other organisms. However, no import restrictions exist on products containing penta. Other countries can manufacture penta, add it to consumer products and sell those products in America.

Penta and other PBDEs accumulate in fatty tissues in animals of all kinds and can be passed from mother to child via breast milk. Even though penta was banned in the U.S, it is still present in homes, animals, humans and the environment because of its prevalence in furniture bought before the ban; its use in imported furniture and its apparent resistance to degradation. Other PBDE varieties such as octa and deca, used in plastic electronics casings such as for televisions, volatilize out of the plastic and into the air. They are banned in several states because they have been shown to cause liver toxicity, disrupt reproductive systems and cause endocrine disruption.

PBDEs sound like bad actors, but once upon a time they were the good guys. They replaced polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) flame-retardants, which were banned by the United States Congress in 1976. PCBs, like PBDEs, are incredibly persistent: 30 years after the ban, PCBs are still found ubiquitously in mammals, human blood and umbilical cords, fish, birds, air, soil, lakes, rivers, house dust, sewage and wastewater sludge.

PCBs were used in coolants, insulating plasticizers, paints, cements, electrical wiring PVC coating, electronic components and pesticide extenders as well as in flame-retardants. Some industrial manufacturing areas are extremely contaminated with PCBs, such as the Hudson River, where fishing has been banned since 1976 due to the high levels of PCBs found in the river and fish. PCBs are considered especially deleterious because when burned, they react with oxygen and turn into the very toxic dioxin. PCBs are carcinogenic, decrease bone density in humans, increase behavioral and reflex problems in rats and decrease immune function in mice.

The basic structure of PCBs is similar to that of PBDEs. This is concerning because structurally similar molecules often have similar functions or modes of action in the human body. Both chemicals are also structurally similar to thyroid hormone, and animal studies have shown that PBDEs does in fact alter thyroid homeostasis.

PBDE flame-retardants look similarly to a known, banned toxin. They accumulate in humans and other animals, resist degradation, and exert toxic effects. The question remains, do they reduce the incidence of fire-related deaths?

A 2006 report by J. R. Hall, Jr. for the National Fire Protection Association shows from 1980 to 1999 states not requiring fire-retardants in furniture experienced the same decline in fire-related deaths that California did; flame-retardants have not displayed a measurable effect on the reduction of house fires. Arleme Blum, a Chemist from the University of California, Berkeley who researches extensively about flame-retardants, points out in a 2006 op-ed article for The New York Times, “most fatal furniture fires are caused by cigarettes, which typically smolder for half an hour after being put down.” 

Recent legislation at the state level in many states across the nation mandates the manufacture of fire-safe cigarettes, which go out when set down due to “speed bumps” of thickened cigarette paper. Smoking materials such as cigarettes are the primary cause of fire deaths in the United States. If that threat is reduced, what use are toxic chemicals?

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Waiting for...
By InvertMe on 10/31/2008 9:47:49 AM , Rating: 5
the obligitory:

Everything causes cancer so who cares

Liberals try to ban everything and don't know anything

I hate hippys

We should keep using this stuff and not enough proof of cancer causing effects have been shown

Comments from the usual offenders.

RE: Waiting for...
By FITCamaro on 10/31/2008 9:55:59 AM , Rating: 2
Why you gotta spoil the fun?

RE: Waiting for...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 10/31/08, Rating: 0
RE: Waiting for...
By InvertMe on 10/31/2008 10:23:45 AM , Rating: 5
I agree to much of anything will kill you from some sort of cancer and hippies are the most self-centered, worthless as humans generation ever created.

Most of the chemicals people use just aren't needed anyways. The benifits they offer are minor compaired to cost or potential risks. Better just to keep stuff as "natural" as possible. (yes I know there is tons of natural stuff that will kill people)

As for hippies I think you get them confused with radical environmentalists. Most of the hippies I know are pretty chill and don't really bother anyone about anything.

RE: Waiting for...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 10/31/2008 10:31:36 AM , Rating: 5
I'm talking about the hippies generation of the 60's, who became the Yuppies in the 80's which are now in charge of business and are the super over paid for little work CEO's and other high level jobs.
Not saying CEO do not or should not earn a high wage... However, I have a problem with a CEO taking home a 5, 10, or 50 million dollar salary when the company they are running is losing money.

RE: Waiting for...
By MrBlastman on 10/31/2008 10:38:16 AM , Rating: 4
I concur, all while not cutting their own pay and laying everyone off below them and forcing them to take pay cuts and sacrificing their Christmas bonuses.

RE: Waiting for...
By InvertMe on 10/31/2008 10:58:28 AM , Rating: 2
I don't concider them hippies. But if that's your view then - yes I dislike them too. I blame greedy CEOs and lack of incentives to actually "try" for a lot of the problems in the USA now.

I think of hippies as the pot smoking non showering people who live (mostly) off the grid and listen to lots of grateful dead. I have a bunch who live near me and I like them all just fine.

RE: Waiting for...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 10/31/2008 11:11:39 AM , Rating: 2
Again talking about Hippy Generation.... Not hippies themselves. Most people are OK one on one. It's the whole Hippy Generation that are in control now (of big businesses and politics) - Hippy Generation people - Obama, McCain, Clinton, Bush Jr. Maybe that gives you a better idea of whom I'm talking about (there are more of course in the business sector but their names are not as well known). Next up when the Hippy Generation start to die off (they will not retire, they refuse to share the wealth) will be the Disco Generation, then the New Wave Generation, then the Grunge Generation.... I just hope when these future Generations come into power they learn that the self-center greed of the Hippy Generation did extreme damage to this country's strength and wealth.

RE: Waiting for...
By PhoenixKnight on 10/31/2008 6:00:01 PM , Rating: 3
Hippy Generation people - Obama, McCain, Clinton, Bush Jr.

McCain? I thought he was part of the caveman generation.

RE: Waiting for...
By foolsgambit11 on 11/1/2008 8:54:45 PM , Rating: 3
At the very least, it's odd to put Obama and McCain in the same generation. They're 25 years apart in age.

RE: Waiting for...
By Parhel on 10/31/2008 9:29:25 PM , Rating: 2
Most people, when referring to that generation as a whole, call them the "Baby Boomers." And I agree that they have been the greediest generation in recent memory, and have basically sold out their children so they could have a better "quality of life." They were the reason that, today, women pretty much all have to have jobs, and children have to be raised by "child care professionals." You double the work force, you cut the real income of the worker in half.

RE: Waiting for...
By michael2k on 10/31/2008 2:11:38 PM , Rating: 5
Why should we keep using flame retardants if they don't actually do anything useful except hurt us?

In fact, not using them should make things cheaper, as well as less toxic.

RE: Waiting for...
By mezman on 10/31/2008 3:19:22 PM , Rating: 2
You hate hippies?? Me too!! We should be BFFs.

RE: Waiting for...
By GlassHouse69 on 10/31/2008 10:42:21 PM , Rating: 2
most people on here are morons, so like that makes sense.

RE: Waiting for...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/3/2008 10:37:07 AM , Rating: 2
This is purely a guess, but I doubt furniture companies took it upon themselves to add these materials. Sounds like another federally mandated " feel good " policy forced onto businesses. Who, as always, get made into the bad guys when something unexpected happens. I.E Mortgage " crisis ".

RE: Waiting for...
By Reclaimer77 on 11/3/2008 11:00:42 AM , Rating: 2
Or they got sued repeatedly because their product went up like a tinderbox in a house fire. Big shock right ? And they felt compelled to do something to limit the avalanche of frivolous lawsuits businesses have to endure.

Either way, I'm betting its not their fault.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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