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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Nov;114(11):1770-5.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers: a case study for using biomonitoring data to address risk assessment questions.

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National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, North Carolina 27711, USA.


The use of biomonitoring data holds promise for characterizing exposure and informing risk assessment. Biomonitoring data have been used successfully to track population trends, identify susceptible populations, and provide indications of emerging environmental health issues. However, there remain challenges associated with interpreting biomonitoring data for risk assessment. An international biomonitoring workshop was convened in September 2004 to explore the use of biomonitoring data in the context of risk assessment. Six compounds were examined as case studies for this workshop, including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The PBDE case study was developed to provide an example of a persistent compound for which relatively few data are available for human exposure, biomonitoring, and health outcomes. PBDEs are used in hard plastics, electronics, textiles, and polyurethane foam products. The congener pattern downstream of production facilities often resembles the commercial mixture. However, because these compounds persist in the environment and in biota, the patterns of congeners evolve. PBDEs partition into body lipids, and direct measurement of bromodiphenyl ether congeners in biologic specimens provides a good marker of exposure. Data indicate significant variability (> 100-fold range) in lipid-adjusted levels for PBDEs in the general population. It is hypothesized that both exposure and pharmacokinetics may play a role in observed congener profiles. Significant gaps in our ability to interpret PBDE biomonitoring data to address public health and risk assessment questions include limited knowledge of environmental fate and transport of PBDE congeners, limited population-based data for adults, and lack of data for potentially vulnerable populations such as children.

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