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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Feb;119(2):151-4. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002604. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Contamination of U.S. butter with polybrominated diphenyl ethers from wrapping paper.

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  • 1University of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.



Our aim was to report the first known incidence of U.S. butter contamination with extremely high levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).


Ten butter samples were individually analyzed for PBDEs. One of the samples and its paper wrapper contained very high levels of higher-brominated PBDEs. Dietary estimates were calculated using the 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data, excluding the elevated sample.


The highly contaminated butter sample had a total upper bound PBDE level of 42,252 pg/g wet weight (ww). Levels of brominated diphenyl ether (BDE)-206, -207, and -209 were 2,000, 2,290, and 37,600 pg/g ww, respectively. Its wrapping paper contained a total upper-bound PBDE concentration of 804,751 pg/g ww, with levels of BDE-206, -207, and -209 of 51,000, 11,700, and 614,000 pg/g, respectively. Total PBDE levels in the remaining nine butter samples ranged from 180 to 1,212 pg/g, with geometric mean of 483 and median of 284 pg/g. Excluding the outlier, total PBDE daily intake from all food was 22,764 pg/day, lower than some previous U.S. dietary intake estimates.


Higher-brominated PBDE congeners were likely transferred from contaminated wrapping paper to butter. A larger representative survey may help determine how frequently PBDE contamination occurs. Sampling at various stages in food production may identify contamination sources and reduce risk.

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