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Polybrominated diphenyl ethers: human tissue levels and toxicology.

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Environmental Research Division, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, KIA 0L2, Canada.


PBDEs are being released to the environment in wastes from their production facilities, degradation, or leaching and volatilization from products that contain PBDEs during the product's useful life. Brominated diphenyl ether congeners BDE-47, -99, and -153 are ubiquitous in the environment and are regarded as the most dominant congeners present in wildlife and humans. The tetra- to hexa-BDE are most likely the congeners to which humans are exposed through food consumption. Knowledge of PBDE uptake, metabolism, elimination, and enzyme induction is restricted largely to rodents (rats and mice) in vitro and in vivo. Feeding studies have shown that excretion of higher brominated BDEs is much greater than lower brominated BDEs. Penta-BDE is more toxic than octa- and deca-BDE following oral administration (oral LD50 in rats, 0.5-5 g/kg). In rodents, repeated exposure to PBDEs results in thyroid hormone disruption, developmental neurotoxicity, some changes of fetal development, and hepatotoxic effects. The observed chronic NOELs depend upon the technical mixture type (i.e., deca-, octa-, or penta- and their congener composition), animal species, and study protocol. Values range from 0.6 to 100 mg/kg in rats and from I to 100 mg/kg in mice. PBDEs are neither mutagenic nor genotoxic. Immunotoxicity in mice is observed following exposure to BDE-47 at 18 mg/kg/d, where splenocyte number decreased. Mice exposed neonatally to a single oral dose of BDE-47(10.5 mg/kg) or BDE-99 (12 mg/kg) on Pnd10 (period of rapid brain growth and development) show permanent impairment of spontaneous motor behavior when reaching adulthood. BDE-99 also induced adverse effects on learning and memory functions of mice. The estimated daily intake based on food consumption for PBDEs ranges from 44 to 51 ng/d, with fish contributing almost one-half. The BDE-99 body burden from a human milk survey can be estimated at 0.64 microg/kg, well below the experimental body burden of 0.4 mg/kg BDE-99 associated with behavioral alterations in neonatal mice. When considering the outlier value for PBDE-99 at 229 ng/g, this would result in an estimated PBDE-99 body burden of 46 microg/kg, or a MOS of only 9. However, no toxicokinetics data are available for humans, and the actual margin of safety may be much smaller if based on levels in critical target organs or tissues.

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