Environ Health Perspect. 2024 Jan;132(1):17004. doi: 10.1289/EHP13182. Epub 2024 Jan 24.


BACKGROUND: Widespread exposure to organophosphate ester (OPE) flame retardants with potential reproductive toxicity raises concern regarding the impacts of gestational exposure on birth outcomes. Previous studies of prenatal OPE exposure and birth outcomes had limited sample sizes, with inconclusive results.

OBJECTIVES: We conducted a collaborative analysis of associations between gestational OPE exposures and adverse birth outcomes and tested whether associations were modified by sex.

METHODS: We included 6,646 pregnant participants from 16 cohorts in the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program. Nine OPE biomarkers were quantified in maternal urine samples collected primarily during the second and third trimester and modeled as log2-transformed continuous, categorized (high/low/nondetect), or dichotomous (detect/nondetect) variables depending on detection frequency. We used covariate-adjusted linear, logistic, and multinomial regression with generalized estimating equations, accounting for cohort-level clustering, to estimate associations of OPE biomarkers with gestational length and birth weight outcomes. Secondarily, we assessed effect modification by sex.

RESULTS: Three OPE biomarkers [diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), a composite of dibutyl phosphate and di-isobutyl phosphate (DBUP/DIBP), and bis(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate] were detected in >85% of participants. In adjusted models, DBUP/DIBP [odds ratio (OR) per doubling=1.07; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02, 1.12] and bis(butoxyethyl) phosphate (OR for high vs. nondetect=1.25; 95% CI: 1.06, 1.46), but not other OPE biomarkers, were associated with higher odds of preterm birth. We observed effect modification by sex for associations of DPHP and high bis(2-chloroethyl) phosphate with completed gestational weeks and odds of preterm birth, with adverse associations among females. In addition, newborns of mothers with detectable bis(1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate, bis(2-methylphenyl) phosphate, and dipropyl phosphate had higher birth weight-for-gestational-age z-scores (β for detect vs. nondetect=0.040.07); other chemicals showed null associations.

DISCUSSION: In the largest study to date, we find gestational exposures to several OPEs are associated with earlier timing of birth, especially among female neonates, or with greater fetal growth. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP13182.

PMID:38262621 | PMC:PMC10805613 | DOI:10.1289/EHP13182