Predictors of urinary flame retardant concentration among pregnant women

Environ Int. 2017 Jan:98:96-101. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2016.10.007. Epub 2016 Oct 13.


Background: Organophosphate compounds are commonly used in residential furniture, electronics, and baby products as flame retardants and are also used in other consumer products as plasticizers. Although the levels of exposure biomarkers are generally higher among children and decrease with age, relatively little is known about the individual characteristics associated with higher levels of exposure. Here, we investigate urinary metabolites of several organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs) in a cohort of pregnant women to evaluate patterns of exposure.

Methods: Pregnant North Carolina women (n=349) provided information on their individual characteristics (e.g. age and body mass index (BMI)) as a part of the Pregnancy Infection and Nutrition Study (2002-2005). Women also provided second trimester urine samples in which six PFR metabolites were measured using mass spectrometry methods.

Results: PFR metabolites were detected in every urine sample, with BDCIPP, DHPH, ip-PPP and BCIPHIPP detected in >80% of samples. Geometric mean concentrations were higher than what has been reported previously for similarly-timed cohorts. Women with higher pre-pregnancy BMI tended to have higher levels of urinary metabolites. For example, those classified as obese at the start of pregnancy had ip-PPP levels that were 1.52 times as high as normal weight range women (95% confidence interval: 1.23, 1.89). Women without previous children also tended to have higher urinary levels of DPHP, but lower levels of ip-PPP. In addition, we saw strong evidence of seasonal trends in metabolite concentrations (e.g. higher DPHP, BDCIPP, and BCIPHIPP in summer, and evidence of increasing ip-PPP between 2002 and 2005).

Conclusions: Our results indicate ubiquitous exposure to PFRs among NC women in the early 2000s. Additionally, our work suggests that individual characteristics are related to exposure and that temporal variation, both seasonal and annual, may exist.

Keywords: Exposure; Organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs); Pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Flame Retardants / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • North Carolina
  • Obesity
  • Organophosphates / urine*
  • Plasticizers
  • Pregnancy / urine*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second / urine
  • Reference Values
  • Seasons


  • Flame Retardants
  • Organophosphates
  • Plasticizers