Associations between polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants, phenolic metabolites, and thyroid hormones during pregnancy.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are chemical additives used as flame retardants in commercial products. PBDEs are bioaccumulative and persistent and have been linked to several adverse health outcomes.


This study leverages an ongoing pregnancy cohort to measure PBDEs and PBDE metabolites in serum collected from an understudied population of pregnant women late in their third trimester. A secondary objective was to determine whether the PBDEs or their metabolites were associated with maternal thyroid hormones.


One hundred forty pregnant women > 34 weeks into their pregnancy were recruited into this study between 2008 and 2010. Blood samples were collected during a routine prenatal clinic visit. Serum was analyzed for a suite of PBDEs, three phenolic metabolites (i.e., containing an -OH moiety), and five thyroid hormones.


PBDEs were detected in all samples and ranged from 3.6 to 694 ng/g lipid. Two hydroxylated BDE congeners (4´-OH-BDE 49 and 6-OH-BDE 47) were detected in > 67% of the samples. BDEs 47, 99, and 100 were significantly and positively associated with free and total thyroxine (T4) levels and with total triiodothyronine levels above the normal range. Associations between T4 and PBDEs remained after controlling for smoking status, maternal age, race, gestational age, and parity.


PBDEs and OH-BDEs are prevalent in this cohort, and levels are similar to those in the general population. Given their long half-lives, PBDEs may be affecting thyroid regulation throughout pregnancy. Further research is warranted to determine mechanisms through which PBDEs affect thyroid hormone levels in developing fetuses and newborn babies.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Stapleton, HM; Eagle, S; Anthopolos, R; Wolkin, A; Miranda, ML

Published Date

  • October 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 119 / 10

Start / End Page

  • 1454 - 1459

PubMed ID

  • 21715241

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC3230439

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-9924

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0091-6765

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1289/ehp.1003235


  • eng