PBDE Exposure in utero Linked with Anxiety in Teens

A recent research study has advanced understanding of the link between exposure to environmental toxins (like the toxic flame retardant chemical PBDE) in utero and subsequent development of anxiety during adolescence. PBDE has been linked in numerous scientific studies to a variety of health problems–especially those affecting the brain, like lowered IQ and memory loss, as well as diabetes and cancer.*

Study overview

“The study focused on a class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that were used as flame retardants for products like furniture foam padding, insulation, rugs, upholstery, computers and appliances. The researchers used data from the Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) study, which enrolled 468 pregnant women in the Greater Cincinnati region from 2003-2006 and continued to follow up with their children up to 12 years later.” (source)

Researchers investigated the relationship between gestational serum PBDE concentrations and anxiety symptoms in adolescents (N = 236). They measured five PBDE congeners (PBDE-28, −47, −99, −100, and −153) at 16 ± 3 weeks of gestation and calculated their sum (∑PBDE). They then assessed self-reported anxiety symptoms using the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED) and depressive symptoms using the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI-2) at age 12 years. They estimated the associations of maternal PBDE concentrations with child anxiety and depressive symptoms using multivariable linear regression and modified Poisson regression. (source)

Results overview

Gestational serum PBDE concentrations just before mid-pregnancy and during a period of active cortical and limbic neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and myelogenesis may be a risk factor for developing anxiety symptoms in early adolescence. (source)  In other words…

“The study found that each time the PBDE levels doubled in a pregnant mother’s blood sample, it was associated with increased anxiety scores in the adolescents, suggesting PBDE exposure during pregnancy may be a risk factor for developing anxiety symptoms in early adolescence.” (source)


photo of woman looking on computer

*More scientific information on the health effects of fire retardant chemical PBDE:

PBDEs and Your Health: Latest Research Findings

Autism Linked to PBDE Fire Retardant Chemical on Furniture, Carpets

Breast Cancer Linked to Fire Retardant PBDE Chemicals

PBDE Fire Retardant Chemicals Linked with Premature Births

Exposure to PBDE in the Womb Linked to Lifelong Metabolic Disorder

Common Fire Retardant Chemical in Moms can Lead to Diabetes in Offspring

Kids Carry Toxic Chemicals in Their Bodies from Vinyl Flooring, Furniture

Flame Retardant Exposure During Pregnancy Linked with Reading Problems in Children

Celiac Disease Linked to Common Toxic Chemicals

Biggest Chemical Threat to Intellectual Disability: Flame Retardants, Pesticides


toxic furniture-restamped


Toxic Furniture and Industry Lies: Doc Recommendation




Journal reference: Strawn, J., et al. Early exposure to flame retardants is prospectively associated with anxiety symptoms in adolescents: A prospective birth cohort study, Depression & Anxiety Journal, Volume39, Issue12, December 2022, Pages 780-793.  https://doi.org/10.1002/da.23284