Childs lunch – Image from Shutterstock

The last thing your kid’s PB&J needs are flame retardants. Really, has a PB&J at your house ever burst into flames? However, new research published in Environmental Health Perspectives has revealed that many foods, including your creamy peanut butter, contain hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), a brominated flame retardant used in polystyrene foams in thermal insulation and electrical equipment. If you’re shocked, we’d be surprised. It’s no big secret that there are some truly horrid contaminates in the American food supply. From rodent hair to  beetle parts to GMOs to arsenic to substances from a beaver’s anal gland, it would seem you can’t eat anything anymore without having to worry.  But flame retardants in basic foods, pretty much takes the cake. According to the research team who discovered the flame retardants in food, health concerns of HBCD exposure include alterations in immune and reproductive systems, neurotoxic effects, and endocrine disruption. The study shows that HBCD levels were highest in canned sardines, fresh salmon, peanut butter and tilapia but canned chili and sliced ham, turkey, chicken and other deli meats also contained noticeable levels of this flame retardant.

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Image by Flickr User ewige

According to Discovery News, Arnold Schecter, a public health physician at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, and his research teams have uncovered a wide range of chemicals in supermarket foods including high levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs – or flame retardants). Schecter’s work surrounding flame retardants in food first made the big time when his team discovered that a brand of butter found in the supermarket was contaminated with extremely high levels of PBDEs. This butter study was unique in that it was the first time food contamination due to PBDEs in a food’s packaging was discovered. In fact, the team found PBDEs in butter, but found that the butter’s paper wrapper contained PBDE levels that were more than 16 times greater than levels in the butter itself. Schecter’s research equals reasons to be concerned. Flame retardants are poorly regulated and growing evidence shows that not only do they result in health problems for people but they may also be harmful to the environment and wildlife. On top of this, flame retardants may not even accomplish their goal of reducing fire risks. In fact flame retardants may make fires even deadlier. Schecter tells Discovery News that on the positive side, flame retardant levels in food are low enough that they don’t sound any alarms for the government regulating said foods. However, Schecter says, “The thing that isn’t good news is that we are finding so many different toxic chemicals in food.” The small amounts of flame retardants add up in our bodies as time passes. Other research shows that flame retardants take years to break down in the human body and these chemicals have even been found in human blood, urine and breast milk.

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