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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAlbany: Racial and Sex Differences in Maternal Phthalate Exposure and Birth Outcomes

Phthalates are compounds found in many common household products, including plastics, cosmetics, medications and personal care products. Growing evidence shows that maternal phthalate exposure may impact fetal development; however, few studies consider gestational exposure by race and infant sex. Dr. Michael S. Bloom, Dr. Recai Yucel and colleagues examined racial disparity in maternal phthalate exposure and the association with birth outcomes in research published in Environment International.

310 African American and White women enrolled in a mother-infant birth cohort at the Medical University of South Carolina between 2011 and 2014 were analyzed for phthalates in their urine during pregnancy. This was examined in conjunction with infant characteristics.

Results showed associations between greater concentrations of maternal urinary phthalates measured at two different points of gestation and lower birth weight for gestational age at delivery, a measurement of fetal growth velocity. African American mothers had significantly greater urinary concentrations of several phthalate compounds, potentially predisposing their infants to stronger perinatal effects. Overall, the pattern of race-specific associations between maternal phthalates and birth outcomes was mixed. When breaking down the data based on sex, greater maternal phthalates was associated with a greater risk of low birth weight in male infants.

While this research shows that there are race and sex-based differences in maternal phthalate exposure and birth outcomes, the reasons for these differences are speculative. A large, more comprehensive investigation is needed to determine how vulnerable populations may be able to reduce exposure and impact.