M, J She, FR Brown, J Winkler, G Windham, E Rogers, G Zhao, R Bhatia
and MJ Charles. 2003. High body burdens of 2,2’,4,4’
- tetrabromo diphenyl ether (BDE-47) in California Women.
Health Perspectives doi:10.1289/ehp.6220.
et al. confirm indications from preliminary sampling in
California that over the past 3 decades contamination by brominated
flame retardants in California women has risen dramatically.
Stored samples from the 1960s had no polybrominated diphenyl ether
(PBDE) contamination. Levels measured from samples taken in the
1990s, in contrast, reveal levels 3 to 10 times higher than measurements
from Europe obtained during the same period.
Sweden, concerns about the neurodevelopmental
impacts of these compounds coupled with their strong persistence
and bioaccumulative nature have instigated a governmental ban on
their use. No such measures are currently in place in the US. The
findings by Petreas et al., as well as those from a similar
study in Indiana, suggest
that measures to reduce PBDE environmental releases should commence
suggest that without such interventions, PBDEs will surpass
concentration levels of PCBs in some environments.
did they do? Petreas et al. measured BDE-47
tissues obtained during three separate epidemiological studies in
the San Francisco Bay area of California. One set (32 women) was
selected randomly from breast fat samples taken in a case-control
study of breast cancer. A second set (50 women) was obtained from
Laotian immigrant women participating in a study of organochlorine
exposure and menstrual cycle function. A third (420 women) was from
serum archived by the National Institute of Health in the late 1960s.
the samples were obtained initially for other purposes, the volume
of each sample available for analysis was very small, limiting their
analysis to only BDE-47 out of the many possible PBDEs. Further,
even for BDE-47, the sensitivity of the analysis was constrained.
In adipose tissue, they could detect reliably down to 0.5 ng/g (parts
per billion) but in serum only to 10 ng/g.
did they find? BDE-47 was not detectable in any of the
late 1960s samples. In contrast, it was found in all of the fat
tissue samples and 24 of the 50 serum samples taken during the late
following range presents median and range of PBDEs in the different
and source of samples
1959-1967, NIH study
Laotian immigrants, 1997-1999
et al. found a significant negative correlation (p = 0.019)
between age and BDE-47 levels in the sample of mostly-US born women:
older women had less contamination. No correlation was noted in
the sample of Laotian women.
does it mean? Petreas et al. conclude there has
been a significant increase in BDE-47 body burden in the US over
the last 2 decades. This result is consistent with study
of Indiana women and their neonates published simultanteously
with this report. Moreover, the body burdens reported in
the US are 3 to 10 times higher than those noted in Europe.
Even at these lower levels, Sweden has now moved to ban polybrominated
flame retardants because of their concerns about developmental toxicity
combined with the persistent and bioaccumulative nature of these
authors conclude that : "BDE-47 concentrations were high, pointing
to the need for follow up studies designed to investigate PBDE exposures.
Increasing body burdens, particularly in young women of
reproductive age, pose a potential public health threat tofuture
generations. PBDE sources need to be recognized, evaluated
and controlled to minimize exposures. At the same time, the systematic
monitoring of body burdens of known and emerging POPs
should become a high priority for our public health system."