In a new study, researchers found that flame retardants in nearly every American home could cause diabetes.
These flame retardants, called PBDEs, have been linked to diabetes in adult humans.
The researchers found that PBDEs cause diabetes in mice only exposed to the chemical through their mothers.
The mice received PBDEs from their mothers while they were in the womb and as young babies through mother’s milk.
Remarkably, in adulthood, long after the exposure to the chemicals, the female offspring developed diabetes.
The research was conducted by a team at UC Riverside.
PBDEs are common household chemicals added to furniture, upholstery, and electronics to prevent fires.
They get released into the air people breathe at home, in their cars, and in airplanes because their chemical bond to surfaces is weak.
The researchers say PBDEs are everywhere in the home. They’re impossible to completely avoid.
Even though the most harmful PBDEs have been banned from production and import into the U.S., inadequate recycling of products that contain them has continued to leach PBDEs into water, soil, and air.
As a result, doctors continue to find them in human blood, fat, fetal tissues, as well as maternal breast milk in countries worldwide.
In the study, the team wanted to understand whether these chemicals could have harmful effects on children of PBDE-exposed mothers. But such experiments can only be done on mice.
The researchers gave PBDEs to the mouse mothers at low levels comparable to average human environmental exposure both during pregnancy and lactation.
All of the babies developed glucose intolerance, high fasting glucose levels, insulin insensitivity, and low blood insulin levels, which are all hallmarks of diabetes.
In addition, researchers also found the babies had high levels of endocannabinoids in the liver, which are molecules linked to appetite, metabolism, and obesity.
Though the mothers developed some glucose intolerance, they weren’t as affected as their offspring.
These findings indicate that chemicals in the environment, like PBDEs, can be transferred from mother to offspring, and exposure to them during the early developmental period is damaging to health.
The research team feels future longitudinal studies in humans are needed to determine the long-term consequences of early-life PBDE exposure.
One author of the study is Elena Kozlova.
The study is published in Scientific Reports.
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