A case-control study of maternal polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) exposure and cryptorchidism in Canadian populations
Environmental Health Perspectives
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Background: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants found in North American household products during the past four decades. These chemicals leach out in dust as products age, exposing individuals daily through inhalation and ingestion. Animal studies suggest that PBDEs disrupt sex hormones and adversely affect development of the reproductive system. Objectives: In the present study, we examined whether there is a link between maternal hair PBDE concentrations and the risk of cryptorchidism (undescended testes) in male infants; testis descent is known to be dependent on androgens. Methods: Full-term male infants were recruited through clinics in Montreal, Toronto, and London, Canada. Boys with cryptorchidism at 3-18 months of age (n=137) were identified by pediatric urologists and surgeons; similar-aged controls (n=158) had no genitourinary abnormalities as assessed by pediatricians. Eight BDE congeners (BDE-28, -47, -99, -100, -153, -154, -183, -209) were measured by GC-MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) in maternal hair samples collected at the time of recruitment. Results: The ∑PBDE geometric mean for maternal hair was 45.35 pg/mg for controls and 50.27 pg/mg for cases; the concentrations of three BDEs (BDE-99, -100, and -154) were significantly higher in cases than controls in unadjusted models. In adjusted models, every 10-fold increase in the concentration of maternal hair BDE-99 [OR=2.53 (95% CI: 1.29, 4.95)] or BDE-100 [OR=2.45 (95% CI: 1.31, 4.56)] was associated with more than a doubling in the risk of cryptorchidism. BDE-154 [OR=1.88 (95% CI: 1.08, 3.28)] was also significant. Conclusions: Our results suggest that maternal exposure to BDE-99, -100, and -154 may be associated with abnormal migration of testes in the male fetus. This may be due to the anti-androgenic properties of the PBDEs.