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Exposure to Organophosphate Flame Retardant Chemicals in the U.S. General Population: Data from the 2013-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
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  • Alternative Title:
    Environ Int
  • Description:

    Use of organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) including tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate, triphenyl phosphate, tris(1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate, and tris-2-chloroethyl phosphate, in consumer products is on the rise because of the recent phase out of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. Some of these chemicals are also used as plasticizers or lubricants in many consumer products.


    To assess human exposure to these chlorinated and non-chlorinated organophosphates, and non-PBDE brominated chemicals in a representative sample of the U.S. general population 6 years and older from the 2013–2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).


    We used solid-phase extraction coupled to isotope dilution high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry after enzymatic hydrolysis of conjugates to analyze 2,666 NHANES urine samples for nine biomarkers: diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), bis(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (BDCIPP), bis-(1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate (BCIPP), bis-2-chloroethyl phosphate (BCEP), di-n-butyl phosphate (DNBP), di-p-cresylphosphate (DpCP), di-o-cresylphosphate (DoCP), dibenzyl phosphate (DBzP), and 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoic acid (TBBA). We calculated the geometric mean (GM) and distribution percentiles for the urinary concentrations (both in micrograms per liter [μg/L] and in micrograms per gram of creatinine). We only calculated GMs for analytes with an overall weighted frequency of detection >60%. For those analytes, we also a) determined weighted Pearson correlations among the log10-transformed concentrations, and b) used regression models to evaluate associations of various demographic parameters with urinary concentrations of these biomarkers.


    We detected BDCIPP and DPHP in approximately 92% of samples, BCEP in 89%, DNBP in 81%, and BCIPP in 61%. By contrast, we detected the other biomarkers much less frequently: DpCP (13%), DoCP (0.1%), TBBA (5%), and did not detect DBzP in any samples. Concentration ranges were highest for DPHP (<0.16–193 µg/L), BDCIPP (<0.11–169 µg/L), and BCEP (<0.08–110 µg/L). Regardless of race/ethnicity, 6–11 year old children had significantly higher BCEP adjusted GMs than other age groups. Females had significant higher DPHP and BDCIPP adjusted GM than males, and were more likely than males to have DPHP concentrations above the 95th percentile (odds ratio = 3.61; 95% confidence interval, 2.01–6.48).


    Our results confirm findings from previous studies suggesting human exposure to OPFRs, and demonstrate, for the first time, widespread exposure to several OPFRs among a representative sample of the U.S. general population 6 years of age and older. The observed differences in concentrations of certain OPFRs biomarkers by race/ethnicity, in children compared to other age groups, and in females compared to males may reflect differences in lifestyle and exposure patterns. These NHANES data can be used to stablish a nationally representative baseline of exposures to OPFRs and when combined with future 2-year survey data, to evaluate exposure trends.

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