Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are found in furniture, electronics, and kitchenware to slow the spread of flames in the event of a fire.
However, a new study found that these molecules may lead to early mammary gland development, which is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The research was conducted by a team at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS).
Components of flame retardants are endocrine disruptors, i.e., they interfere with the hormonal system.
Since they are not directly bound to the material in which they are added, the molecules escape easily. They are then found in house dust, air and food.
This exposure can cause problems for mammary glands because their development is highly regulated by hormones.
In the study, the team exposed female rodents to a mixture of BFRs, similar to that found in house dust.
In pre-pubertal rats, the team noted the early development of mammary glands. For pubescent rats, they showed deregulation of communication between cells.
All of these effects are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The team says BFRs pose a big risk, particularly during sensitive periods, from intrauterine life to puberty and during pregnancy.
They point out that peaks in human exposure to BFRs have been observed in the early 2000s.
Young women exposed to BFRs in utero and through breastfeeding are now in the early stages of fertility. Their mothers are in their fifties, a period of increased risk for breast cancer.
This study raises questions about the current legislation for endocrine disruptors.
One author of the study is Professor Isabelle Plante.
The study is published in Toxicological Sciences.
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