Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Hidden Home Health Hazards
It's in your house. It's in your car. If tests prove true, a toxic chemical - virtually all around us - could be harming a number of unborn babies. It's a hidden health hazard and investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is "On The Case."
(WSVN) -- The chemicals are everywhere - in your car, TV, computer, even in your couch and mattress. Scientists say you're unknowingly exposed to them everyday.
Joel Tickner, a research Professor at UMass Lowellsays, "Because they're so widespread, they're into the food chain, they're getting into the household dust."
And they're ending up in all of us.
The chemical is PBDE-- a common flame retardant.
In lab animals, PBDE disrupts brain development.
Tickner says, "We know that these could pose a risk to children. There's no human data yet to say that children have been harmed by these chemicals, but we have more than enough evidence to say there is a problem."
Sharon Koshar, a concerned mother, says, "We need to stop using these."
When she was pregnant with her son, Tayjee, Koshar was tested for PBDE in her blood.
"The results were about 30 parts per billion," she says.
That number is twenty times higher than levels in Swedish women. Sweden banned PBDEs six years ago.
"The level that's in my blood goes directly to a fetus," says Koshar, "so this baby probably has levels similar to mine. And that's alarming to me."
PBDEs are added to the plastic casings in computer monitors and TVs to make them less flammable.
They're also in foam cushions in furniture and automobiles.
Scientists don't know how they get in our bodies, but they do know the levels of PBDEs in us have doubled every 5 years since the 1970's.
"Ican't even eliminate them all from my life," says Koshar. "I have to drive my car, I have to use my computer. So I'm frustrated, I'm frustrated and angry and scared."
Some experts say the only way to lower your exposure is for the industry to stop making them.
Last month, California passed a law banningPBDEs.
Industry representatives are taking note.
Peter O'Toole,US Director of the Bromine Science & Environmental Forum says, "If you ban certain fire retardants, an unintended consequence could be weakened fire safety standards."
Tickner counters, "We shouldn't be afraid that more people are going to die in fires because the alternatives exist that meet the fire code, and they do what they need to do."
Several electronics and furniture companies, including Apple, Sony, Hewlett Packard and Ikea, are already using alternatives.
But the reductions might not come soon enough for one generation.
"Are we going to see learning disabilities when Taygee's 5 years old?" wonders Koshar. "Is he going to have leukemia when he's 10?"
All of the nursing mothers tested in two studies were contaminated with PBDEs.
And although their levels were 10 to 20 times higher than those in Europe -- experts say it is still safe to breast feed.
But as one government expert put it - this is a wake up call.
If you have a story for Carmel or for more information, contact her at:
305-627-CLUE in Miami-Dade
954-921-CLUE in Broward