Childhood Anxiety: Increased by Flame Retardant Exposure


CINCINNATI, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Scientists have known for years that a mom’s experiences and exposures during pregnancy can have an impact on her unborn baby. New research now sheds light on the connection between exposure to toxic chemicals in the womb and childhood anxiety.

COVID isolation, social media, bullying – childhood anxiety has been on the rise for years. Nearly one in three teens ages 13 to 18 will experience anxiety. While researchers are learning more about psychological risk factors for anxiety, they know little about environmental factors, like toxins

Scientists are now focusing on a class of chemicals called PBDEs – flame retardants that are now banned, but were used in common household products, like chairs, foam, cushions, carpets, and car seats.

Researchers enrolled 460 pregnant women to study the relationship between exposure to the flame retardants and their children’s mental health.

“It started roughly during the second trimester, and then, these children have been followed over time,” says Jeffrey Strawn, MD, a psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati.

(Read Full Interview)

Researchers say exposure to the chemicals occurred during a critical time in pregnancy – a time when the nerve cells in the brain were being formed and migrating to new areas of the brain.

Dr. Strawn explains, “Exposure during that period was associated with a small, but a significant increase in anxiety.”

Dr. Strawn says the study showed the chemicals increased anxiety in teens by 10 to 20 percent. Researchers say they’ll focus on improving interventions for kids at higher risk for anxiety.

The PBDEs were banned in the United States in 2004, but Dr. Strawn says many older consumer products still contain the chemicals.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor. 

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REPORT:       MB #5230

BACKGROUND: Anxiety in children refers to excessive worry, fear, and apprehension that may interfere with their daily functioning and overall well-being. Over 30 percent of teens suffer with an anxiety disorder and eight percent of those suffer impairment from it. Many previous studies have shown how a mothers exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy can have an effect on the unborn baby. Chemicals can enter the pregnant woman’s body through various routes, including inhalation, ingestion, or absorption through the skin.


DIAGNOSING: Diagnosing teen anxiety involves a comprehensive assessment that considers the teenager’s symptoms, history, and the impact of anxiety on their daily functioning. Identifying and diagnosing anxiety disorders in teenagers is crucial for providing appropriate support and interventions to help them manage their anxiety effectively. A mental health evaluation is needed to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder. Intrusive thoughts that interrupt normal daily functions are what differentiate feelings of anxiety versus a disorder. Treatment options can include various different therapies and psychiatric medications. Untreated anxiety can lead to other serious problems later in life for teens.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Flame retardents are now banned however, they were commonly used in many household products. New research allowed scients to find new envioronmental risk factors that can result in anxiety disorders. A study of 460 preganant women investigated the relationship between exposure to flame retardents and their chid’s mental health. The new technology allowed results to show exposure to chemicals that were present in furniture foam padding, insulation, rugs, upholstery, computers and appliances during a critical pregnancy time, was associated with significant increases in childhood anxiety. 



Tim Tedeschi

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. Jeffery Strawn, Psychiatrist

Read the entire Q&A