The researchers found no increased risk of preterm birth among women with PBDE levels below that level, according to the report published online recently in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine.
“Our findings illustrate that flame retardants may have a tremendous impact on childbirth even if exposure occurred early on in the pregnancy,” said lead author Morgan Peltier, associate professor of clinical obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine at NYU Long Island School of Medicine in Mineola, N.Y.
“Although PBDE chemicals are used with good intentions, they may pose a serious health concern that may have lasting consequences for children,” Peltier added in an NYU news release.
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.
Previous research suggested a link between PBDE exposure and preterm birth, but those studies focused on exposure to the chemicals late in pregnancy, specifically among white and African American mothers.
Peltier said the new study is the first to examine PBDE exposure in the first trimester of pregnancy, and it also included Asian and Hispanic women.
The Washington State Department of Health has more on PBDEs.