Researchers in the United States (U.S.) said chemicals commonly found in the home could still raise pregnant women’s risk for premature delivery. Their report is published online recently in a Journal of ‘Perinatal Medicine’. The chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used as flame retardants in items like furniture and carpets.
There are an estimated 15 million preterm births worldwide each year. Preterm birth is a leading cause of newborn death and has been linked with long-term neurological disorders including cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, and learning problems. For the study, researchers analysed blood samples from over 3,500 pregnant women, including 184 whose babies were born early, for blood levels of PBDEs and found that nearly all had detectable levels of PBDEs in their blood. Women were divided into four groups based on those levels. After accounting for other risk factors for premature birth — such as ethnicity, age, and smoking during pregnancy — the researchers found that women with the highest PBDE levels had 75 per cent higher odds for suddenly going into early labour after an otherwise normal pregnancy, compared to women with the lowest levels. Women with PBDE concentrations above four nanogrammes per milliliter of blood were about twice as likely to deliver early via cesarean section or induced labour due to safety concerns for mother or baby, the study found