Flame Retardant Exposure May Harm Fertility
Study Finds High PBDE Levels in Blood Double Time to Get Pregnant
WebMD News Archive
Flame Retardants and Fertility: Study Details continued...
Exactly how the chemicals may affect time to pregnancy isn't known, but
experts say one way may be to disrupt thyroid functioning. Low and high thyroid
levels can alter normal menstrual patterns and thus affect fertility.
The women's levels, overall in the study, were actually a bit lower than the
national average, Harley says. She notes that about 97% of Americans have
detectable PBDE levels in their blood, citing a survey. Californians are likely
to have the highest levels because of the state's strict flammability
requirements for products.
The women in the study were living in a low-income, predominantly
Mexican-immigrant community. Most were recent immigrants from Mexico, where
PBDE use is lower, she says.
Flame Retardant Exposure and Time to Pregnancy: Expert Views
The new study backs up some lab findings, says Sonya Lunder, a senior
analyst at the Environmental Working Group, which has also studied the
Of the results, she says: “A 50% decrease in the odds of becoming pregnant
The study is scientifically sound, says Ruthann Rudel, director of research
for Silent Spring Institute, a Boston-based organization that conducts research
on environmental factors affecting women's health.
The researchers controlled for other factors that may affect fertility, she
says, such as pesticide exposure, and still found an effect of the
Flame Retardant Exposure: Industry Weighs In
A representative from the flame retardant industry took exception to the
findings. ''The study is limited to penta and octa-[PBDEs] and does not include
deca, the only PBDE currently in use," says John Kyte, a spokesman for the
Bromine Science and Environmental Forum, an industry group based in Washington,
As a result, he says, ''the study is not applicable to all PBDEs or to PBDEs
generally." Each of the PBDE forms is different, he says.
He says penta and octa-PBDEs are no longer in use in the U.S., so exposure
to them should decline over time.
Response to Industry View
In response, Harley says that deca (also known as BDE-209) was not measured
because the CDC lab didn't have the analytical capability to measure it at the
time of the study. ''So we have no idea what the deca levels are in these
women," she says.
Although it is true the PBDEs found to be associated with delayed time to
pregnancy in her study have been banned, she says many older products still
contain the penta chemicals ''and we expect that our exposure to penta will
continue over the next several years."