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Toxicol Sci. 2011 Jun;121(2):234-44. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfr059. Epub 2011 Mar 25.

Toxicokinetics of the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane alpha: effect of dose, timing, route, repeated exposure, and metabolism.

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  • 1United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health Effects and Exposure Research Laboratory, Integrated Systems Toxicology Division, Mail Drop B143-01, 109 T.W. Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA. szabo.david@epa.gov


Alpha-hexabromocyclododecane (α-HBCD) is an emerging persistent organic pollutant present in the hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) commercial mixture. HBCD is used as an additive flame retardant in a wide variety of household consumer products. Three main stereoisomers, alpha (α), beta (β), and gamma (γ), comprise roughly 10, 10, and 80% of the mixture, respectively. Despite its small contribution to HBCD global production and usage, α-HBCD is the major stereoisomer found in wildlife and human tissues including breast milk and blood in North America, European Union, and Asia. No mammalian or human data are currently available regarding the toxicokinetics of α-HBCD. This study was conducted in an effort to fully characterize the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination of α-HBCD following a single and repeated exposure with respect to dose, time, and route of administration in female C57BL/6 mice. Results indicate that ∼90% of the administered dose (3 mg/kg) was absorbed after oral exposure. Disposition was (1) dictated by lipophilicity, as adipose, liver, muscle, and skin were major depots and (2) was dose dependent with nonlinear accumulation at higher doses. Elimination, both whole-body and from individual tissues, was biphasic. α-HBCD-derived radioactivity was excreted in the feces as parent and metabolites, whereas urine only contained metabolites. Presence of polar metabolites in the blood and urine were a major factor in determining the rapid initial whole-body half-life after a single oral exposure. Initial half-lives were ∼1-3 days and much longer terminal half-lives of 17 days were observed, suggesting the potential for α-HBCD bioaccumulation. A 10-day repeated study supports α-HBCD bioaccumulation potential. Stereoisomerization previously observed after exposure to γ-HBCD was not seen after exposure of α-HBCD. The toxicokinetic behavior reported here has important implications for the extrapolation of toxicological studies of the commercial HBCD mixture to the assessment of risk of α-HBCD which is the major stereoisomer found in wildlife and people.

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