Background: Brominated flame retardants (BFRs), are chemicals widely used in consumer products including electronics, vehicles, plastics and textiles to reduce flammability. Experimental animal studies have confirmed that these compounds may interfere with thyroid hormone homeostasis and neurodevelopment but to date health effects in humans have not been systematically examined.
Objectives: To conduct a systematic review of studies on the health impacts of exposure to BFRs in humans, with a particular focus on children.
Methods: A systematic review was conducted using the MEDLINE and EMBASE electronic databases up to 1 February 2012. Published cohort, cross-sectional, and case-control studies exploring the relationship between BFR exposure and various health outcomes were included.
Results: In total, 36 epidemiological studies meeting the pre-determined inclusion criteria were included. Plausible outcomes associated with BFR exposure include diabetes, neurobehavioral and developmental disorders, cancer, reproductive health effects and alteration in thyroid function. Evidence for a causal relationship between exposure to BFRs and health outcomes was evaluated within the Bradford Hill framework.
Conclusion: Although there is suggestive evidence that exposure to BFRs is harmful to health, further epidemiological investigations particularly among children, and long-term monitoring and surveillance of chemical impacts on humans are required to confirm these relationships.
Keywords: Brominated flame retardants; Children; Exposure; Health; Human.
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