Baton Rouge news: Flame retardant exposure may increase childhood anxiety

A Baton Rouge, Louisiana television station recently highlighted research led by the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center that sheds light on the connection between exposure to environmental toxins in utero and the later development of anxiety during adolescence.

Lead author Jeffrey Strawn, MD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience in UC’s College of Medicine and a UC Health child and adolescent psychiatrist, and his colleagues published the study in the journal Depression & Anxiety.

The study focused on a class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that were used as flame retardants for products like furniture foam padding, insulation, rugs, upholstery, computers and appliances. The researchers used data from the Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) study, which enrolled 468 pregnant women in the Greater Cincinnati region from 2003-2006 and continued to follow up with their children up to 12 years later.

“It started roughly during the second trimester, and then, these children have been followed over time,” Strawn told news station WAFB. “Exposure during that period was associated with a small but a significant increase in anxiety."

The study found that each time the PBDE levels doubled in a pregnant mother’s blood sample was associated with increased anxiety scores in the adolescents, suggesting PBDE exposure during pregnancy may be a risk factor for developing anxiety symptoms in early adolescence. 

Watch or read the WAFB report.

Read more about the research.

Featured photo at top of Dr. Strawn. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Marketing + Brand.

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