(HealthDay News) – Prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) is associated with cognitive deficits and hyperactivity in young children, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 4–7 in Washington, DC.

Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and colleagues examined the correlation between child neurodevelopment and prenatal exposure to PBDEs (BDE-47 and the sum of BDE-47, -99, -100, and -153 [sum4BDEs]) in 301 women at 16 weeks of gestation. Children were followed annually until age 5 years.

The researchers found that there was a correlation between prenatal exposure to BDE-47 and sum4BDEs and cognitive deficits at ages 2, 3, and 5 years, with larger deficits seen in older children. There was a 4.6 decrement in the Bayley Mental Development Index at age 3 and a 7.5 decrement in the Wechsler Full Scale IQ at age 5 seen for each 10-fold increase in BDE-47. In addition, increased hyperactivity symptoms correlated with prenatal BDE-47 and sum4BDEs exposure, with a 2.4 increment in hyperactivity score seen with a 10-fold increase in BDE-47.

“We found maternal exposure to PBDEs, a group of brominated flame retardants mostly withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2004, was associated with deficits in child cognition at age 5 years and hyperactivity at ages 2–5 years,” Chen said in a statement. “Because PBDEs exist in the home and office environment as they are contained in old furniture, carpet pads, foams, and electronics, the study raises further concern about their toxicity in developing children.”

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