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Your Environment. Your Health.

Flame Retardants May Impair In Vitro Fertilization

Russ Hauser, M.D., Sc.D.
Harvard University
R01ES009718, R01ES022955, P30ES000002, T32ES007069

A higher concentration of some organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs) in urine is associated with negative in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes in women, according to an NIEHS-funded study. The findings link exposure to PFRs in women undergoing IVF to a lower probability of embryo fertilization and implantation, as well as fewer successful pregnancies and live births.

Researchers analyzed metabolites of PFRs in urine samples from 211 women who underwent IVF at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center between 2005 and 2015. PFRs are used in polyurethane foam products and can be found in products such as upholstered furniture, baby supplies, and gym mats. They detected urinary metabolites of three PFRs — bis(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate, diphenyl phosphate, and isopropylphenyl phenyl phosphate — in more than 80 percent of participants.

The women with the highest concentrations of PFR metabolites had lower rates of successful fertilization and implantation of the embryo compared with women with the lowest levels of metabolites. Overall, the group with the lowest levels of PFR metabolites had a 41 percent increase in clinical pregnancies and a 38 percent increase in live births, compared with the group with the highest urinary metabolite concentrations.

Citation: Carignan CC, Mínguez-Alarcón L, Butt CM, Williams PL, Meeker JD, Stapleton HM, Toth TL, Ford JB, Hauser R; EARTH Study Team. 2017. Urinary concentrations of organophosphate flame retardant metabolites and pregnancy outcomes among women undergoing in vitro fertilization. Environ Health Perspect 125(8):087018


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