Sex-specific Differences in the Accumulation of Brominated Flame Retardants and Thyroid Hormone Regulation in Human Placental Tissue

January 18, 2017
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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Brominated flame retardants, known as BFRs, have been added to various types of furniture and electronic items with the intent to increase the time it takes for these products to ignite. Because BFRs such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent in the environment, bioaccumulate up the food chain and are potentially toxic, they have been phased out of production beginning in 2002. Though newer products do not contain PBDEs, there are still numerous products in circulation that contain and off-gas BFR chemicals. Other BFRs, such as 2,4,6-tribromophenol (2,4,6-TBP), are still used, and have multiple uses (e.g. as a fungicide and wood preservative).


image by Thomas Kohler Creative Commons

Animal studies demonstrate these BFRs affect hormone regulation and epidemiologic studies support this concern in humans. Many flame retardants are both capable of endocrine disruption and may bioaccumulate in placenta tissue. This is concerning since both PBDE and 2,4,6-TBP chemically resemble thyroid hormones and may be interfering with thyroid hormone mechanisms during development. This disruption may also have a sex-specific effects that disrupt human growth and development.

On this call Dr. Heather Stapleton described her recent work in human populations investigating the associations between placental BFRs and thyroid hormone levels in infants.

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HeatherStapletonHeather M. Stapleton, PhD, is an associate professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Dr. Stapleton is an environmental chemist and exposure scientist. Her current research projects focus on identifying flame retardant chemicals in consumer products, exploring routes of human exposure and examining mechanisms of thyroid hormone dysregulation. In 2008 she was awarded an Outstanding New Environmental Scientist Award (ONES) from NIEHS for her research grant proposal entitled "Children's Exposure to Brominated Flame Retardants: Effects on Thyroid Hormone Regulation", and in 2012 she testified in front of the US Senate Environment & Public Works committee on human exposure and toxicity of new-use flame retardants.


This teleconference call is one in a monthly series sponsored by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s EDC Strategies Partnership. The CHE EDC Strategies Partnership is chaired by Carol Kwiatkowski and Katie Pelch (TEDX), Sharyle Patton (Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center), Jerry Heindel (Commonweal Program on Endocrine Disruption Strategies), and Genon Jensen (HEAL) and coordinated by Maria Williams (Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a Commonweal program). To see a full list of past calls and webinars related to EDCs and listen to or view recordings, please visit our partnership page.

The call was moderated by Sharyle Patton, Director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center. The call lasted for 30 min and was recorded.