Flame Retardants and their Effect on Human Health


Researchers recently discovered new information about flame retardants and their effect on human health.  Using 3-D images, researchers at the National Institutes of Health developed a way to view how brominated flame retardants (BFRs) interfere with the human body’s natural hormones.  Scientists can actually see the flame retardants attaching and binding to estrogen proteins. The results of this study are important because one of the human body’s main communication systems is the endocrine system.  This system controls functions like energy levels, reaction to stress, reproduction, development and growth.  With the help of 3-D imagery, scientists have discovered that chemicals found in flame retardants act like hormones and upset the human body’s endocrine system.

Flame retardants and their effect on human health

Flame retardants are found everywhere.  People become exposed to flame retardants in a number of ways.  The most common types of exposure are from consumer products in the home, building material, electronics, furniture, workplaces, house dust, our diets, and automobiles. A team of scientists and foremost researcher in flame retardants, Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, conducted this study at a facility at the National Institutes of Health.  In this current study, scientists looked at proteins at the atomic level using X-ray crystallography.  They made a 3-D image of proteins and examined the protein binding to the flame retardant.

Benefits of this groundbreaking research

This recent groundbreaking research allowed scientists to visualize exactly how brominated flame retardant compounds interact with the human body’s enzymes.  In an earlier study, one of the most widely used BFRs, tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), was shown to cause tumors in mice and rats. The results of this study provided evidence that TBBPA binds to estrogen in a similar manner and position that our body’s estradiol binds.  Nonetheless, there is still much more to learn about how chemicals affect the human body.  This most recent research increases our understanding of flame retardants and their effect on human health with hopes that companies find safer alternatives. Read more of George Zapo’s articles pertaining to public, global, and environmental health at his website: Healthy Habits.

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: https://georgezapo.com.