Skip to Content

Common Household Chemicals Tied to Preemie Births

MONDAY, March 15, 2021 -- Even when women do their best to have a safe pregnancy, chemicals commonly found in the home could still raise their risk for premature delivery, a new study shows.

The chemicals -- called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) -- are used as flame retardants in items like furniture and carpets.

For the study, researchers analyzed blood samples from over 3,500 pregnant women, including 184 whose babies were born early, for blood levels of PBDEs. Nearly all had detectable levels of PBDEs in their blood. Women were divided into four groups based on those levels.

After accounting for other risk factors for premature birth -- such as ethnicity, age and smoking during pregnancy -- the researchers found that women with the highest PBDE levels had 75% higher odds for suddenly going into early labor after an otherwise normal pregnancy, compared to women with the lowest levels.

Women with PBDE concentrations above 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood were about twice as likely to deliver early via cesarean section or induced labor due to safety concerns for mother or baby, the study found.

The researchers found no increased risk of preterm birth among women with PBDE levels below that level, according to the report published online recently in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine.

"Our findings illustrate that flame retardants may have a tremendous impact on childbirth even if exposure occurred early on in the pregnancy," said lead author Morgan Peltier, associate professor of clinical obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine at NYU Long Island School of Medicine in Mineola, N.Y.

"Although PBDE chemicals are used with good intentions, they may pose a serious health concern that may have lasting consequences for children," Peltier added in an NYU news release.

There are an estimated 15 million preterm births worldwide each year.

Preterm birth is a leading cause of newborn death and has been linked with long-term neurological disorders including cerebral palsy, schizophrenia and learning problems.

Previous research suggested a link between PBDE exposure and preterm birth, but those studies focused on exposure to the chemicals late in pregnancy, specifically among white and African American mothers.

Peltier said the new study is the first to examine PBDE exposure in the first trimester of pregnancy, and it also included Asian and Hispanic women.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Read this next

Epidural in Delivery Not Linked to Autism: Study

MONDAY, April 19, 2021 -- In news that should reassure many pregnant women, having an epidural during childbirth won't increase the child's risk of autism, researchers...

L.A.'s Oil Wells Could Be Harming Citizens' Health

MONDAY, April 19, 2021 -- The respiratory health risks among people who live near oil wells in Los Angeles are similar to the risks from daily exposure to secondhand smoke or...

Live Near a 'Superfund' Site? Your Life Span Might Be Shorter

MONDAY, April 19, 2021 -- Living near a Superfund hazardous waste site may shorten your life, new research suggests. There are thousands of Superfund sites across the United...

More News Resources

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Whatever your topic of interest, subscribe to our newsletters to get the best of Drugs.com in your inbox.