Children Show Highest Levels of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in a California Family of Four: A Case Study

By Fischer, Douglas; Hooper, Kim et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Children Show Highest Levels of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in a California Family of Four: A Case Study


Fischer, Douglas, Hooper, Kim, Athanasiadou, Maria, Athanassiadis, Ioannis, Bergman, Ake, Environmental Health Perspectives


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a major class of flame retardants, are ubiquitous environmental contaminants with particularly high concentrations in humans from the United States. This study is a first attempt to report and compare PBDE concentrations in blood drawn from a family. Serum samples from family members collected at two sampling occasions 90 days apart were analyzed for PBDE congeners. Concentrations of the lower-brominated PBDEs were similar at the two sampling times for each family member, with children's levels 2-to 5-fold higher than those of their parents. Concentrations of, for example, 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) varied from 32 ng/g lipid weight (lw) in the father to 60, 137, and 245 ng/g lw in the mother, child, and toddler, respectively. Decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) concentrations differed significantly between the two samplings. September concentrations in the father, mother, child, and toddler were 23, 14, 143, and 233 ng/g lw, respectively. December concentrations (duplicate results from the laboratory) were 2 and 3, 4 and 4, 9 and 12, and 19 and 26 ng/g lw, respectively. Parents' [SIGMA]PBDE concentrations approached U.S. median concentrations, with children's concentrations near the maximum (top 5%) found in U.S. adults. The youngest child had the highest concentrations of all PBDE congeners, suggesting that younger children are more exposed to PBDEs than are adults. Our estimates indicate that house dust contributes to children's higher PBDE levels. BDE-209 levels for all family members were 10-fold lower at the second sampling. The short half-life of BDE-209 (15 days) indicates that BDE-209 levels can decrease rapidly in response to decreased exposures. This case study suggests that children are at higher risk for PBDE exposures and, accordingly, face higher risks of PBDE-related health effects than adults. Key words: BDE-209, brominated flame retardants, children, decaBDE, house dust, human exposure, PBDE, polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Environ Health Perspect 114:1581-1584 (2006). doi:10.1289/ehp.8554 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 25 May 2006]

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The polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are brominated flame retardants sold as pentaBDE, octaBDE and decaBDE, containing mainly 4-5, 7-8, and 10 bromines, respectively, attached to the diphenyl ether moiety (Alaee et al. 2003). The PBDEs are added reportedly at 5-30% by weight to synthetic materials (e.g., polyurethane foams, synthetic fabrics, and thermoplastics) to retard ignition. PBDEs are noncovalently bound additives in a variety of consumer products, for example, TVs, computers, and fabrics, foams, and textiles used in homes, offices, and cars (Alaee et al. 2003; World Health Organization 1994, 1997). PBDEs are slowly released from these products during their life cycles (Alcock et al. 2003).

PBDE body burdens in the United States are relatively high: adult levels are 10-100 times higher than the 1-3 ppb body burdens found in Europe or Japan (Choi et al. 2003; Covaci et al. 2002; Mazdai et al. 2003; McDonald 2005; Petreas et al. 2003; Schecter et al. 2003, 2005b; She et al. 2002; Sjodin et al. 2001, 2003), and parts per million concentrations of PBDEs have been reported in human adipose tissue in New York City (Johnson-Restrepo et al. 2005). Levels of decaBDE (BDE-209) in humans are less widely measured but are found in several studies at 1-3 ng/g lipid weight (lw) (Hooper et al. 2004; Schecter et al. 2005b; She J, unpublished data; Sjodin et al. 2001; Thuresson et al. 2006). Several PBDE congeners have been shown experimentally to exert developmental neurotoxicity in vivo (Eriksson et al. 2002a, 2002b; Viberg et al. 2003, 2004). Some PBDEs also cause reproductive damage in laboratory animals at body burdens below 302 ng/g lw, a level reached by 5% of U.S. women (McDonald 2005).

To our knowledge, only one study has measured PBDE body burdens in the very young (Thomsen et al.

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Children Show Highest Levels of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in a California Family of Four: A Case Study
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