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Organophosphate and Organohalogen Flame-Retardant Exposure and Thyroid Hormone Disruption in a Cross-Sectional Study of Female Firefighters and Office Workers from San Francisco


Occupational exposures to flame retardants (FRs), a class of suspected endocrine-disrupting compounds, are of health concern for firefighters. We sought to characterize exposure to FR compounds and evaluate their association with thyroid hormone levels, a biomarker of early effect, in female firefighters and office workers in San Francisco. In a cross-sectional study, we measured replacement organophosphate and organohalogen FRs in spot urine samples from firefighters (N = 86) and office workers (N = 84), as well as total thyroxine (T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone in plasma for 84 firefighters and 81 office workers. Median bis(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate (BDCPP) levels were 5 times higher in firefighters than office workers. Among firefighters, a doubling of BDCPP was associated with a 2.88% decrease (95% confidence interval -5.28, -0.42) in T4. We did not observe significant associations between FRs and T4 among office workers. In the full group, intermediate body mass index and a college education were associated with higher FR levels. The inverse association observed between FRs and T4 coupled with the lack of studies on women workers and evidence of adverse health effects from FR exposure─including endocrine disruption and breast cancer risk─warrant further research on occupational exposures and identification of opportunities for exposure reduction.

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