PBDE concentrations in women's serum and fecundability

Environ Health Perspect. 2010 May;118(5):699-704. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901450. Epub 2010 Jan 13.


Background: Exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants is widespread, with 97% of Americans having detectable levels. Although PBDEs have been associated with reproductive and hormonal effects in animals, no human studies have examined their association with fertility.

Objectives: This study was designed to determine whether maternal concentrations of PBDEs in serum collected during pregnancy are associated with time to pregnancy and menstrual cycle characteristics.

Methods: Pregnant women (n = 223) living in a low-income, predominantly Mexican-immigrant community in California were interviewed to determine how many months they took to become pregnant. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for PBDEs. PBDE concentrations were lipid adjusted and log10 transformed. Analyses were limited to PBDE congeners detected in > 75% of the population (BDEs 47, 99, 100, 153). Cox proportional hazards models modified for discrete time were used to obtain fecundability odds ratios (fORs) for the association of PBDEs and time to pregnancy.

Results: We detected all four congeners in > 97% of women. Increasing levels of BDEs 47, 99, 100, 153 and the sum of these four congeners were all associated with longer time to pregnancy. We observed significantly reduced fORs for BDE-100 [adjusted fOR = 0.6; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.4-0.9], BDE-153 (adjusted fOR = 0.5; 95% CI, 0.3-0.8), and the sum of the four congeners (adjusted fOR = 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5-1.0). PBDEs were not associated with menstrual cycle characteristics.

Conclusions: We found significant decreases in fecundability associated with PBDE exposure in women. Future studies are needed to replicate and confirm this finding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • California
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects*
  • Flame Retardants / metabolism*
  • Flame Retardants / toxicity*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers