October 2013 Spotlight: Recent Research

In September, the PROTECT article “Urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations among pregnant women in Northern Puerto Rico: Distribution, temporal variability, and predictors” was accepted for publication in Environment International. The paper documents recent PROTECT work showing that detectable concentrations of phthalate metabolites among pregnant women living in Puerto Rico are prevalent, and metabolite concentrations tend to be higher than or similar to those measured in women of reproductive age from the general US population. We observed significant or suggestive positive associations between urinary phthalate metabolites concentrations and water sources , use of personal care products, and consumption of certain food items. To our knowledge this is the first study to report concentrations, temporal variability, and predictors of phthalate biomarkers among pregnant women in Puerto Rico. Preliminary results suggest several potentially important exposure sources to phthalates in this population and future analysis from this ongoing prospective cohort will help to inform targeted approaches to reduce exposure.

Relationships between these same phthalates and risk of preterm birth were explored in a paper to be published by JAMA Pediatrics in November. Project 1 conducted a nested case-control study among several hundred pregnant women recruited as part of an ongoing cohort study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Phthalate metabolites were measured in urine samples collected at multiple times during pregnancy. Significantly increased odds of having a preterm delivery were observed in association with increased urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations after adjusting for potential confounding variables; when the analysis was restricted to those cases of preterm birth defined as spontaneous preterm delivery, the relationships became much stronger. These results further support the urgent need for a detailed investigation into potential environmental risk factors that may be contributing to the high rates of preterm birth in Puerto Rico.

See all of our publications here.