The association of urinary phosphorous-containing flame retardant metabolites and self-reported personal care and household product use among couples seeking fertility treatment

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2020 Jan;30(1):107-116. doi: 10.1038/s41370-019-0122-9. Epub 2019 Feb 6.


Background: Phosphorous-containing flame-retardants (PFRs) are widely detected. They are used both as a flame retardant as well as plasticizer.

Methods: A subset of 230 women and 229 men were recruited from Massachusetts General Hospital fertility clinic between 2005 and 2015. At each visit, participants completed a questionnaire of personal care product (PCP) and household product (HP) use. Metabolites [bis(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate, diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), isopropylphenyl phenyl phosphate (ip-PPP), tert-butylphenyl phenyl phosphate and bis(1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate] were measured in urine (1-5 samples; n = 638 women, n = 335 men). Associations were assessed using generalized mixed models, adjusted for SG, age, BMI, smoking, education, and season.

Results: In women, moisturizer (60%), nail polish remover (77%), and nail polish (134%) use were associated (p < 0.05) with an increase in DPHP concentrations, while ip-PPP concentrations increased 21-27% with conditioner, cosmetics, deodorant, and hair product use. Mouthwash and vinyl glove use were associated with a respective 31% and 92% increase in DPHP among men.

Conclusions: Our exploratory analysis suggests PFRs may be used as a plasticizer in consumer products, and nail polish use contributes to internal DPHP exposure. Further research is needed to understand how PFRs are used in these products and how it relates to exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Cosmetics / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Fertility Clinics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Flame Retardants / analysis
  • Household Products*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Organophosphates / urine
  • Plasticizers
  • Self Report


  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Cosmetics
  • Flame Retardants
  • Organophosphates
  • Plasticizers
  • diphenyl