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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Note on Emerging Science

Air Date: Week of

Chemicals used in the making of flame retardant materials have been linked to obesity and type II diabetes in rats. Bobby Bascomb reports.


BASCOMB: New research shows that brominated chemicals used in the making of flame retardants – and found in everything from clothes, carpet, furniture, even in water and air – could be making you fat.

At the Experimental Biology meeting in San Francisco, researchers revealed a study that shows a link between exposure to flame retardants and an increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes. Brominated chemicals have long been known to impair neurological development in test animals. But there’s now evidence that these chemicals are storing themselves in the body’s fat cells.

In laboratory experiments, researchers at the University of New Hampshire fed flame-retardant chemicals to a group of young male rats and kept another group of rats as a control. After four weeks the researchers found that the fat cells in the chemical-exposed rats were mobilizing lipids 25 percent faster than their non-treated counterparts. Such increased fat circulation in the body is a characteristic of obesity.

The treated rats were also significantly less resistant to insulin, which commonly leads to type 2 diabetes. Researchers say the exact effect of flame retardants on humans still needs to be studied.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Bobby Bascomb.



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