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Diabetes is one of the most debilitating illnesses that affect millions of people across the globe. Type 2 diabetes is primarily associated with lifestyle habits, but new research suggests that some chemicals commonly found in American homes might also increase the chances of getting the disease.

UC Riverside researchers recently published findings from a diabetes study, and the findings indicate that fire retardant materials known as PBDEs found in many American homes may cause diabetes. The study claims that mice exposed to the fire retardants produce offspring that develop diabetes as they grow older.

The study also indicates that PBDEs trigger diabetes in mice whose mothers are exposed to the fire retardants. Elena Kozlova, the lead author in the study, noted that pregnant mice transfer the PBDEs to their unborn offspring and through milk after birth. The study showed that female offspring contracted diabetes during adulthood, even though the exposure to flame retardants occurred while they were young and before birth.

The findings in mice subjects will likely be similar in humans

Researchers believe that humans may also experience similar effects when exposed to fire-retardant chemicals, which means that the chemical compounds might pose a danger to children. Household items such as electronics and upholstery are usually coated with PBDEs, which means avoiding them is nearly impossible.

Dr. Margarita Curras-Collazo, one of the study authors and UCR neuroscientist, noted that many PBDEs considered harmful were banned and are no longer produced in the U.S. However, many products containing the harmful flame retardants are usually recycled or disposed of such that the PBDEs pollute the water, air, and soil. Their presence in the three elements makes it easy for them to end up in humans. The research shows that those chemicals can then be transferred from mother to fetus and contribute to diabetes when the child becomes an adult.

The researchers hope that the findings will encourage parents to be more vigilant about PBDEs around their hopes and the potentially harmful effects that may manifest in the future. Awareness allows people to be more vigilant and careful. The researchers also noted that parents should not avoid breastfeeding because of PBDEs fears. Breastfeeding provides many benefits, so the best course of action should be to eliminate hazardous fire retardant chemicals from residential areas.