“Study shows women with elevated levels of common types of flame retardant chemicals in their blood may be at higher risk for thyroid disease
Study has been published online by the journal Environmental Health
A common flame retardant used in furniture and cars may trigger thyroid problems in women, warns new research.
The study shows women with elevated levels of common types of flame retardant chemicals in their blood may be at a higher risk for thyroid disease – and the risk may be significantly higher among post-menopausal women.
The study, published online by the journal Environmental Health, is the first to suggest a link between polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and increased risk of thyroid problems in post-menopausal women. Thyroid problems include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, goitre, or Hashimoto’s disease.
Study lead author Doctor Joseph Allen, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the United States, said: “These chemicals are just about everywhere, from the blood in polar bears to eagles to humans on every continent.
“This near ubiquitous exposure means we are all part of a global experiment on the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals on our bodies.”
PBDEs have been used as flame retardants for many years, largely in furniture, in quantities up to 20 per cent of the weight of the product. Over time, they migrate out of the furniture into the air, settle into dust in homes, schools, offices, and the outdoors, and accumulate in people’s bodies.
Previous research has shown that the chemicals accumulate in fatty tissue and interfere with hormonal functions, including interference with thyroid hormones.
Because it’s known that oestrogen levels regulate thyroid hormones, researchers theorised that post-menopausal women may be particularly vulnerable to PBDE-induced thyroid effects.
The researchers looked at a nationally representative sample of women involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They compared the levels of four common PBDEs in participants’ blood samples in 2003-04 with their history of thyroid problems.
The researchers found that, overall, women were about five times more likely than men to have a thyroid problem. The percentage ranged from 13 to 16 per cent among women, compared with two to three per cent among men.
The results showed that women with the highest flame retardant concentrations in their blood were significantly more likely than those with lower concentrations to have a thyroid problem. The effect size was doubled in post-menopausal women.
Dr Allen added: “To our bodies, these flame retardant chemicals look and function exactly like endogenous hormones our bodies produce.
“Should we be surprised that we see downstream health effects for women with higher body burdens of these chemicals? I think no. This is all too predictable and preventable.””
Written by – Stephen Beech 24th May 2016