Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether Levels in the Blood of Pregnant Women Living in an Agricultural Community in California

By Bradman, Asa; Fenster, Laura et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether Levels in the Blood of Pregnant Women Living in an Agricultural Community in California


Bradman, Asa, Fenster, Laura, Sjodin, Andreas, Jones, Richard S., Patterson, Donald G., Jr., Eskenazi, Brenda, Environmental Health Perspectives


BACKGROUND: Recent studies have raised concerns about polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardant exposures to pregnant women and women of child-bearing age in the United States. Few studies have measured PBDEs in immigrant populations.

OBJECTIVES: Our goal was to characterize levels of seven PBDE congeners, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-153, and polybrominated biphenyl (PBB)-153 in plasma from 24 pregnant women of Mexican descent living in an agricultural community in California.

RESULTS: The median concentration of the sum of the PBDE congeners was 21 ng/g lipid and ranged from 5.3 to 320 ng/g lipid. Consistent with other studies, 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) was found at the highest concentration (median = 11 ng/g lipid; range, 2.5-205) followed by 2,2',4,4',5-pentabromobiphenyl (BDE-99) (median = 2.9 ng/g lipid; range, 0.5-54), 2,2',4,4',5-pentaBDE (BDE-100) (median = 1.8 ng/g lipid; range, 0.6-44), and 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexaBDE (BDE-153) (median = 1.5 ng/g lipid; range, 0.4-35). Levels of PCB-153 (median= 4.4 ng/g lipid; range, < 2-75) were lower than U.S. averages and uncorrelated with PBDE levels, suggesting different exposure routes.

CONCLUSIONS: The overall levels of PBDEs found were lower than levels observed in other U.S. populations, although still higher than those observed previously in Europe or Japan. The upper range of exposure is similar to what has been reported in other U.S. populations. PBDEs have been associated with adverse developmental effects in animals. Future studies are needed to determine the sources and pathways of PBDE exposures and whether these exposures have adverse effects on human health.

KEY WORDS: blood, brominated flame retardant, exposure, Mexican, PBDE, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, pregnant. Environ Health Perspect 115:71-74 (2007). doi:10.1289/ehp.8899 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 19 October 2006]

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Recent reports have suggested that women of reproductive age in the United States may have a higher exposure to flame retardants, particularly polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (Petreas et al. 2003; Schecter et al. 2003; She et al. 2002), than their counterparts in European countries (Guvenius et al. 2003; Sjodin et al. 1999, 2001b; Thomsen et al. 2001). In addition, studies from the United States have shown that PBDE levels have increased in recent decades (Petreas et al. 2003; Sjodin et al. 2004b). Some evidence suggests that these chemicals have the potential to affect neurodevelopment and the endocrine system in animals (Birnbaum and Staskal 2004; Legler and Brouwer 2003). The route of exposure in humans is thought to be through food, ingestion of dust (Schecter et al. 2004; Sjodin et al. 2004b, 2005), and by inhalation (Sjodin et al. 1999, 2001a), but further study is required to elucidate these pathways.

In the present study we report the results of PBDE measurements in a pilot study of immigrant Mexican pregnant women.

Materials and Methods

We selected a convenience sample of 24 women who participated in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) project, a longitudinal birth cohort study of 601 pregnant women living in the Salinas Valley, California (Eskenazi et al. 2003). To be eligible, a woman had to be enrolled in MediCal, > 18 years of age, < 20 weeks gestation at enrollment, and speak English or Spanish. We obtained written informed consent from participants before enrollment according to procedures approved by the University of California, Berkeley, Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects. The serum specimens analyzed in the current investigation were collected between September 1999 and January 2001.

Women were interviewed twice during pregnancy at approximately 13 and 26 weeks gestational age to ascertain information on demographic characteristics, lifestyle habits, work history, and medical history. …

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