A recent study by researchers of Columbia University suggests that prenatal exposure to flame retardants can increase the risk of developing reading problems.
The study was published in the journal - Environmental International.
According to the study around two million children generally have some or the other type of learning disorder and of these, about 80 percent have a reading disorder.
Researchers in the current study hypothesised that during the utero exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which is a type of flame retardant might alter the brain processes of children and affect their reading.
The team of researchers analysed the data from neuro-imaging of 33 five-year-old children which were all novice readers and were given a reading assessment for identifying problems related to reading. They further used the blood samples of their mothers which were taken during pregnancy for estimating the prenatal exposure to such PBDEs.
After the study, researchers concluded that children that had a better-functioning reading network had lesser reading problems and also found that children that had higher exposure to PBDEs were lesser efficient in reading.
However, it wasn't found that greater exposure affects the function of any other brain network involved in social processing which has been associated with disorders like autism spectrum disorder.
"Since social processing problems are not a common aspect of reading disorders, our findings suggest that exposure to PBDEs doesn't affect the whole brain--just the regions associated with reading," said researcher Amy Margolis.
Although exposure to PBDEs had an effect on the network function in the five-year-olds, it did not have any impact on the word recognition.
"Our findings suggest that the effects of exposure are present in the brain before we can detect changes in behavior," said Margolis.
"Future studies should examine whether behavioral interventions at early ages can reduce the impact of these exposures on later emerging reading problems," added Margolis.
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