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Flame retardant linked to altered thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy

p linking PBDEs to human health effects. Eskenazi was the principal investigator on the earlier study that found that women with higher exposures to flame retardants took longer to get pregnant.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed blood samples from 270 women taken around the end of their second trimester of pregnancy. The women in the study were part of a larger longitudinal study from the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) that examines environmental exposures and reproductive health.

The researchers measured concentrations of 10 PBDE chemicals, two types of thyroxine (T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). They controlled for such factors as maternal smoking, alcohol and drug use, and exposure to lead and pesticides.

Analysis focused on the five PBDE chemicals that were detected most frequently and are components of a mixture called pentaBDE. The researchers found that a 10-fold increase in each of the PBDE chemicals was associated with decreases in TSH ranging from 10.9 percent to 18.7 percent. When the five PBDEs were analyzed together, a tenfold increase was linked to a 16.8 percent decrease in TSH.

The study did not find a statistically significant effect of PBDE concentrations on levels of T4. With one exception, all the women in the study with low TSH levels had normal free T4 levels, which corresponds to the definition of subclinical hyperthyroidism. The study found that odds of subclinical hyperthyroidism were increased 1.9 times for each tenfold increase in PBDE concentrations.

"Low TSH and normal T4 levels are an indication of subclinical hyperthyroidism, which is often the first step leading toward clinical hyperthyroidism," said Chevrier. "Though the health effect of subclinical hyperthyroidism during pregnancy is not well understood, maternal clinical hyperthyroidism is linked to altered fetal neurodevelopment, increased risk of miscarriage, prematu

Contact: Sarah Yang
University of California - Berkeley

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