In Utero Exposure to a Brominated Flame Retardant and Male Growth and Development
Authors: Chanley M. Small, Metrecia L. Terrell, Lorraine L. Cameron, Julie Wirth, Carolyn P. Monteilh and Michele Marcus
Abstract: Whether environmental exposures alter the timing of puberty is the subject of increasing interest as pubertal age may have consequences for long term health. This study examines the association between exposure to a brominated flame retardant, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), and puberty and growth. The population consists of sons born to women accidentally exposed to PBBs during 1973-74. Sons 5 to 17 years reported Tanner Stages and answered questions regarding current growth in a mailed questionnaire. Sons 18 to 30 years of age participated in a telephone interview in which they reported retrospective measures of development. Among sons 5-17 years, those with highest exposure (>3 ppb) were less likely to report advanced Tanner stage genital development (OR=0.4, 95% CI: 0.2-0.9) and were less likely to report advanced pubic hair development (OR=0.5; 95% CI: 0.2-1.0), after adjusting for current age, compared to those with lowest exposure (<= 1 ppb). No differences were seen in growth among sons 5-17. However, among sons 18-30 years, those with higher exposure were more likely to weigh less and have lower BMI as adults (test of trend p=0.01 and 0.04, respectively). They were less likely to recall being tall (OR=0.5; 95% CI 0.2-0.9) or heavy (OR=0.6; 95% CI 0.3-1.1) compared to their peers at age 11 years. These results suggest that sons exposed to PBBs in utero may be more likely to have delayed puberty. Further research is needed to corroborate these findings among structurally related compounds and shed light on the biological mechanisms that may be disrupted during puberty and development.