Plasma Concentrations of Selected Organobromine Compounds and Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Postmenopausal Women of Quebec, Canada

By Sandanger, Torkjel M.; Sinotte, Marc et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Plasma Concentrations of Selected Organobromine Compounds and Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Postmenopausal Women of Quebec, Canada


Sandanger, Torkjel M., Sinotte, Marc, Dumas, Pierre, Marchand, Mario, Sandau, Courtney D., Pereg, Daria, Berube, Sylvie, Brisson, Jacques, Ayotte, Pierre, Environmental Health Perspectives


Background: Brominated flame retardants, especially polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been widely used in North America, but little is known about the level of exposure of human populations to these compounds.

Objectives: We set out to assess the internal exposure of postmenopausal Canadian women to selected organobromine compounds and to investigate factors associated with this exposure.

Methods: We measured concentrations of four PBDEs, one polybrominated biphenyl, and for comparative purposes, 41 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners in plasma samples from 110 healthy postmenopausal women who were recruited at a mammography clinic in 2003-2004.

Results: PBDE-47 was the major PBDE congener, with a mean (geometric) concentration of 8.1 ng/g lipids and extreme values reaching 1,780 ng/g. By comparison, the mean concentration of the major PCB congener (PCB-153) was 41.7 ng/g and the highest value was 177 ng/g. PBDEs 47, 99, and 100 were strongly intercorrelated, but weaker correlations were noted with PBDE-153. As the sum of PBDEs ([SIGMA]PBDEs) increased, the relative contribution of PBDE-47 to the [SIGMA]PBDEs increased, whereas that of PBDE-153 decreased. PBDE-153 was the only brominated compound correlated to PCB-153. PBDE levels were not linked to any sociodemographic, anthropometric, reproductive, or lifestyle variables documented in the present study. Age and body mass index gain since the age of 18 years were significant predictors of PCB-153 plasma levels.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that exposure to PBDE-47 likely occurs through direct contact with the penta-PBDE formulation, whereas exposure to PBDE-153 may originate in part from the food chain.

Key Words: brominated flame retardants, polybrominated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated biphenyls, postmenopausal women, Quebec, Canada. Environ Health Perspect 115:1429-1434 (2007). doi:10.1289/ehp.10303 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 24 July 2007]

Organobromine compounds such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are now largely distributed in the environment because of their wide use as flame retardants in electronic equipment, plastics, and textiles. Several PBDE congeners, their hydroxylated metabolites, and brominated bisphenol A analogs induce the estrogen-receptor signal transduction pathway in vitro and may therefore increase the risk of hormone-related diseases (Meerts et al. 2001). Studies in Sweden have revealed that PBDEs increased in human breast milk over the last decades (Meironyte et al. 1999; Noren and Meironyte 2000). However, in recent years a decrease in concentrations has been noted in Sweden (Lind et al. 2003). A similar decline in levels has not been reported in plasma samples from people in North America; to the contrary, limited data for the U.S. population indicate a steep increase in PBDE blood concentrations between 1973 and 2003 (Schecter et al. 2005b). The human levels in North America are also, in general, considerably higher than in any other parts of the world.

In the course of a pilot study investigating possible environmental risk factors of breast cancer, we analyzed plasma samples obtained from 110 healthy postmenopausal women living in the Quebec City area (Quebec, Canada) for several persistent organic pollutants. In this article we present the concentrations of 4 PBDE, 1 polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), and 41 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, the latter for comparative purposes. We also investigated the relation between concentrations of these compounds and anthropometric, demographic, reproductive, and lifestyle characteristics of participants.

Material and Methods

Population. We recruited a convenience sample of 110 women at a large mammography screening clinic located in Quebec City. All women attending the clinic between July 2003 and March 2004 were given a pamphlet describing the purpose of the study and a form to complete (name and coordinates) if they were interested in participating. …

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