Associations between sociodemographic characteristics and exposures to PBDEs, OH-PBDEs, PCBs, and PFASs in a diverse, overweight population of pregnant women

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2020 Jan;30(1):42-55. doi: 10.1038/s41370-019-0173-y. Epub 2019 Sep 23.


Exposures to persistent organohalogen chemicals during pregnancy are associated with adverse health effects. Low-income, minority women with pre-existing co-morbidities may be particularly vulnerable to these exposures, but have historically been understudied. We aimed to characterize exposures to multiple chemical classes among a sample of ethnically diverse, lower income, overweight or obese pregnant women. Serum concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and their hydroxylated metabolites (OH-PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) were measured in 98 pregnant women (California; 2011-2013). Aggregate exposures were evaluated using correlational clustering, a "chemical burden" score, and PCA. Associations between sociodemographic characteristics and individual and aggregate exposures were evaluated using multivariable linear regression. Clustering and PCA both produced four groupings: (PC1) PBDEs/OH-PBDEs, (PC2) PCBs, (PC3) PFNA/PFOA/PFDeA, (PC4) PFHxS/PFOS. Race/ethnicity and prepregnancy BMI were associated with PBDEs, OH-PBDEs and PC1. Maternal age was associated with PCBs and PC2. Parity was associated with PBDEs, OH-PBDEs and PC2. Poverty was negatively associated with PCBs, whereas food insecurity was positively associated with PFOS. We observed variations in sociodemographic profiles of exposures by chemical class and weak across-class correlations. These findings have implications for epidemiologic studies of chemical mixtures and for exposure reduction strategies.

Keywords: Chemical mixtures; Flame retardants; Health Disparities; Obesity; PCBs; Perfluorinated compounds.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / chemistry
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Class


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls