Following the phase-out of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), organophosphate esters (OPEs) have been increasingly used in consumer products and building materials for their flame retardant and plasticizing properties. As a result, human exposure to these chemicals is widespread as evidenced by common detection of their metabolites in urine. However, little is known about the major exposure pathways, or factors that influence children's exposure to OPEs. Furthermore, little data is available on exposure to the novel aryl OPEs.
To examine predictors of children's internal exposure, we assessed relationships between OPEs in house dust and on hand wipes and levels of their corresponding metabolites in paired urine samples (n = 181). We also examined associations between urinary metabolites and potential covariates, including child's age and sex, mother's educational attainment and race, and average outdoor air temperature.
Children aged 3 to 6 years provided urine and hand wipe samples. Mothers or legal guardians completed questionnaires, and a house dust sample was taken from the main living area during home visits. Alkyl chlorinated and aryl OPEs were measured in dust and hand wipes, and composite urine samples were analyzed for several metabolites.
Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), tris(2-chloroisopropyl) phosphate (TCIPP), tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCIPP), 2-ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate (EHDPHP), triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), and 2-isopropylphenyl diphenyl phosphate (2IPPDPP) were detected frequently in hand wipes and dust (>80%), indicating that these compounds were near-ubiquitous in indoor environments. Additionally, bis(1-chloro-2-propyl) 1-hydroxy-2-propyl phosphate (BCIPHIPP), bis(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (BDCIPP), diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), mono-isopropyl phenyl phenyl phosphate (ip-PPP), and mono-tert-butyl phenyl phenyl phosphate (tb-PPP) were detected in >94% of tested urine samples, signifying that TESIE participants were widely exposed to OPEs. Contrary to PBDEs, house dust OPE concentrations were generally not correlated with urinary OPE metabolite levels; however, hand wipe levels of OPEs were associated with internal dose. For example, children with the highest mass of TDCIPP on hand wipes had BDCIPP levels that were 2.73 times those of participants with the lowest levels (95% CI: 1.67, 4.48, p < 0.0001). Of the variables examined, hand wipe level was the most consistent and strongest predictor of OPE urinary metabolite concentrations. Outdoor air temperature was also a significant predictor of urinary BDCIPP concentrations, with a 1 °C increase in temperature corresponding to a 4% increase in urinary BDCIPP (p < 0.0001).
OPE exposures are highly prevalent, and data provided herein further substantiate hand-to-mouth contact and dermal absorption as important pathways of OPE exposure, especially for young children.