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Racial/ethnic and geographic differences in polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels across maternal, placental, and fetal tissues during mid-gestation


Prenatal polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) exposures are a public health concern due to their persistence and potential for reproductive and developmental harm. However, we have little information about the extent of fetal exposures during critical developmental periods and the variation in exposures for groups that may be more highly exposed, such as communities of color and lower socioeconomic status (SES). To characterize maternal-fetal PBDE exposures among potentially vulnerable groups, PBDE levels were examined in the largest sample of matched maternal serum, placenta, and fetal liver tissues during mid-gestation among a geographically, racially/ethnically, and socially diverse population of pregnant women from Northern California and the Central Valley (n = 180; 2014-16). Maternal-fetal PBDE levels were compared to population characteristics using censored Kendall's tau correlation and linear regression. PBDEs were commonly detected in all biomatrices. Before lipid adjustment, wet-weight levels of all four PBDE congeners were highest in the fetal liver (p < 0.001), whereas median PBDE levels were significantly higher in maternal serum than in the fetal liver or placenta after lipid-adjustment (p < 0.001). We also found evidence of racial/ethnic disparities in PBDE exposures (Non-Hispanic Black > Latina/Hispanic > Non-Hispanic White > Asian/Pacific Islander/Other; p < 0.01), with higher levels of BDE-100 and BDE-153 among non-Hispanic Black women compared to the referent group (Latina/Hispanic women). In addition, participants living in Fresno/South Central Valley had 34% (95% CI: - 2.4 to 84%, p = 0.07) higher wet-weight levels of BDE-47 than residents living in the San Francisco Bay Area. PBDEs are widely detected and differentially distributed in maternal-fetal compartments. Non-Hispanic Black pregnant women and women from Southern Central Valley geographical populations may be more highly exposed to PBDEs. Further research is needed to identify sources that may be contributing to differential exposures and associated health risks among these vulnerable populations.

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