Organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) are commonly applied to residential furniture and baby products (e.g. nursing pillows) to meet flammability standards. Exposure to OPFRs is widespread in the general population; however, our research has demonstrated that levels of exposure are substantially higher in infants and toddlers compared to adults. For example, concentrations of a urinary metabolite of TDCPP, [bis(1,3-dichloropropyl) phosphate (BDCPP)] were 15 time higher on average for infants as compared to adults (See Butt et al. 2016). These data clearly demonstrate variability in exposure to OPFRs; however, individual factors associated with elevated exposure in infants and toddlers have yet to be explored.
Despite some suggested links between exposure and immune dysfunction noted in animal studies, potential impacts of OPFR exposures on human immune function have not been investigated. These data are critically needed, especially for young children, who are likely to be much more highly exposed to OPFRs, and whose developing immune systems are thought to be particularly sensitive to environmental chemical exposures. To address this research gap, we are conducting a research study to investigate OPFR exposure and children’s immune function as measured by antibody response to childhood immunizations. During routine well-child care, children receive vaccines at well-defined ages, enabling us to efficiently assess differences in their immune response, and categorize them based on their OPFR exposures. We hypothesize that exposures to OPFRs vary by individual characteristics and behavior (e.g. consumer product use, sleeping patterns, etc), and that early-life exposure is associated with decreased antibody response to immunization. To test this hypothesis we are currently recruiting families for a prospective study, collecting samples of urine and blood from children. For more information on this study, contact Dr. Kate Hoffman (Kate.Hoffman@duke.edu), the Principal Investigator of this project. This project is supported by a grant from the Gerber Foundation.