Boston, MA – Women with higher urinary concentrations of a common type of flame retardant had reduced likelihood of clinical pregnancy and live birth than those with lower concentrations, according to researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, conducted in the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, is the first to examine associations between organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs)—which are used in polyurethane foam in many products, including upholstered furniture, baby products, and gym mats—and reproductive outcomes in women. [[Note on September 8, 2017: The researchers note that to their knowledge flame retardants are not in yoga mats.]]

“These findings suggest that exposure to PFRs may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success,” said first author Courtney Carignan, who conducted the work while a research fellow in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and now is an assistant professor at Michigan State University. “They also add to the body of evidence indicating a need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.”

Women with higher exposure to organophosphate flame retardants had a 10% reduced probability of successful fertilization, 31% reduced probability of implantation of the embryo, and a 41% and 38% decrease in clinical pregnancy and live birth.

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