Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Bioaccumulative Hydroxylated PBDE Metabolites in Young Humans from Managua, Nicaragua

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Bioaccumulative Hydroxylated PBDE Metabolites in Young Humans from Managua, Nicaragua

Article excerpt

OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to investigate exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in a young urban population in a developing country, with focus on potentially highly exposed children working informally as scrap scavengers at a large municipal waste disposal site. We also set out to investigate whether hydroxylated metabolites, which not hitherto have been found retained in humans, could be detected.

METHODS: We assessed PBDEs in pooled serum samples obtained in 2002 from children 11-15 years of age, working and sometimes also living at the municipal waste disposal site in Managua, and in nonworking urban children. The influence of fish consumption was evaluated in the children and in groups of women 15-44 years of age who differed markedly in their fish consumption. Hydroxylated PBDEs were assessed as their methoxylated derivates. The chemical analyses were performed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, using authentic reference substances.

RESULTS: The children living and working at the waste disposal site showed very high levels of medium brominated diphenyl ethers. The levels observed in the referent children were comparable to contemporary observations in the United States. The exposure pattern was consistent with dust being the dominating source. The children with the highest PBDE levels also had the highest levels of hydroxylated metabolites.

CONCLUSIONS: Unexpectedly, very high levels of PBDEs were found in children from an urban area in a developing country. Also, for the first time, hydroxylated PBDE metabolites were found to bioaccumulate in human serum.

KEY WORDS: brominated flame retardants, BFRs, children, fish consumption, human exposure, inhalation, metabolism, OH-PBDEs, waste disposal site. Environ Health Perspect 116:400-408 (2008). doi: 10. 1289/ehp.l0713 available via [Online 21 November 2007]


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been increasingly used as additive brominated flame retardants (BFRs) ever since the 1970s (Alaee et al. 2003; Bergman 2005; World Health Organization 1997) up to the point that two of the commercial BFR products--pentaBDE and octaBDE--were banned or withdrawn from the market, as was the case for these products within the European Union (Cox and Efthymiou 2003) and in North America (Great Lakes Flame Retardants 2005). PBDEs have been and are still used in textiles and in flexible polyurethane foams, as well as in electric appliances and electronic devices. Although used textiles and foams are discarded directly without any restrictions, electronic waste may either be discarded or recycled for valuable metals (Cui and Forssberg 2003). Uncontrolled discharges of material containing BFRs may lead to unintentionally high environmental exposure to these chemicals.

Humans are exposed to PBDEs via ingestion and inhalation. A large number of PBDE congeners have been reported to be present in food as reported by, for example, Schecter et al. (2006), with seafood being an important source. PBDEs are present in ambient air both in industrialized regions (Butt et al. 2004; ter Schure et al. 2004;) and in the Arctic (de Wit et al. 2006) as well as in household dust (Schecter et al. 2005a; Stapleton et al. 2005; Wu et al. 2007). Thus the dominant PBDE exposure routes differ from those of traditional persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This difference appears to be attributable to numerous indoor sources for the former, but much less for the PCBs.

Most data on human PBDE exposure originate in Europe and in North America, as reviewed a few years ago (Gill et al. 2004; Hites 2004; Sjodin et al. 2003). Several more recent publications on PBDEs in humans have appeared from the United States (Bradman et al. 2007; Fischer et al. 2006; Lunder and Sharp 2004; Morland et al. 2005; Schecter et al. 2005b; She et al. 2007) and from Europe, including two-time trend studies (Covaci and Voorspoels 2005; Fangstrom et al. …

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