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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Oct;114(10):1581-4.

Children show highest levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in a California family of four: a case study.

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  • 1Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California 94612, USA.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a major class of flame retardants, are ubiquitous environmental contaminants with particularly high concentrations in humans from the United States. This study is a first attempt to report and compare PBDE concentrations in blood drawn from a family. Serum samples from family members collected at two sampling occasions 90 days apart were analyzed for PBDE congeners. Concentrations of the lower-brominated PBDEs were similar at the two sampling times for each family member, with children's levels 2- to 5-fold higher than those of their parents. Concentrations of, for example, 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) varied from 32 ng/g lipid weight (lw) in the father to 60, 137, and 245 ng/g lw in the mother, child, and toddler, respectively. Decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) concentrations differed significantly between the two samplings. September concentrations in the father, mother, child, and toddler were 23, 14, 143, and 233 ng/g lw, respectively. December concentrations (duplicate results from the laboratory) were 2 and 3, 4 and 4, 9 and 12, and 19 and 26 ng/g lw, respectively. Parents' summation operatorPBDE concentrations approached U.S. median concentrations, with children's concentrations near the maximum (top 5%) found in U.S. adults. The youngest child had the highest concentrations of all PBDE congeners, suggesting that younger children are more exposed to PBDEs than are adults. Our estimates indicate that house dust contributes to children's higher PBDE levels. BDE-209 levels for all family members were 10-fold lower at the second sampling. The short half-life of BDE-209 (15 days) indicates that BDE-209 levels can decrease rapidly in response to decreased exposures. This case study suggests that children are at higher risk for PBDE exposures and, accordingly, face higher risks of PBDE-related health effects than adults.

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