Contact: Bryan Goodman (202) 249-6610
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 1, 2012) – The North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) issued the following statement in response to findings from a study that has been published online by the Environmental Health Perspectives, which claims that flame retardant chemicals were found in many popular food items.
“Based on these findings, the real story is that HBCD was not detected in the majority of the samples and in those where it was, it was well below levels where one might see adverse health effects,” said Jackson Morrill, Director in the Chemical Products & Technology Division of ACC. “The authors themselves note that human exposure from the foods that were studied is well below critical effect levels identified by the European Union; therefore these results should not pose a concern for human health.”
Although the researchers said they used a convenience sample of foods, the foods they chose were based on a previous study. Therefore, the types of foods they picked were informed by where they had quantifiable HBCD in the past (page 9). This approach would potentially bias the results by making them higher than, perhaps, if the researchers had randomly picked foods.
The researchers actually do note on page 16, "It is noteworthy that calculated HBCD intake previously reported for Dallas, Texas foods of 15.3 ng/day, 2.1 x 10-7 mg/kg-bw/day for a 70 kg individual (Schecter et al. 2009), is below 10 mg/kg-bw/day, which is the no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) in rats after exposure to the HBCD commercial mixture. This level is used as the critical effect level by the European Union to characterize risk (EU RAR 2008)." Hence, from the animal studies, exposures from food are well below the NOAEL with a very large margin of exposure, thus you would not expect any concern. The levels detected in this study are slightly below what Schecter found in 2009.
The abstract and conclusions on page 5 as well as part of the takeaway message should have included the relevance of the finding that HBCD is well below the NOAEL so that the study does not unnecessarily raise concerns. But this message is not carried forward.
The researchers’ conclusion focuses on what was found most frequently, rather than the bigger picture, which is that, in total, even with their biased convenience sampling, these congeners were found < 50% of the time. It is not clear why, based on this, the researchers say food may be a substantial contributor to the elevated levels seen in humans.
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