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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Exposure to Flame Retardants May Lower Male Reproductive Hormone, BU Finds

Men exposed to higher levels of chemicals used as flame retardants had decreased levels of a hormone associated with sperm counts and male reproductive function, a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health  researchers shows.

The study, published online in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, found that higher serum levels of some types of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs—chemicals that were used as flame retardants in furniture containing polyurethane foam—were associated with decreased levels of the hormone inhibin-B, and increased levels of the hormone FSH, a pattern that is sometimes present in men who are sub-fertile or infertile.

The authors wrote, “While hormone analysis would be used in combination with other reproductive function tests, clinical evaluations, and semen analysis in the determination of fertility status, we have evidence that PBDEs may be disrupting the hypothalamo-pituitary-testicular axis.”

PBDEs were used in furniture from the 1970s until 2004, when US chemical manufacturers voluntarily withdrew PentaBDE, a chemical mixture that contained PBDEs, from production. However, older products containing PentaBDE remain in use in houses, offices, and vehicles. PentaBDEs also are found in some food products.

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