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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2009 Mar;212(2):109-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2008.04.005. Epub 2008 Jun 12.

Human internal and external exposure to PBDEs--a review of levels and sources.

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Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Ă˜ster Farimagsgade 5A, DK-1014 Copenhagen K, Denmark.


This paper reviews the existing literature on human exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), with particular focus on external exposure routes (e.g. dust, diet, and air) and the resulting internal exposure to PBDEs (e.g. breast milk and blood). Being lipophilic and persistent organic compounds, PBDEs accumulate in lipid-rich tissues. Consequently, food items like fish from high trophic levels or lipid-rich oils have been found to contain relatively high concentrations of PBDEs, thus presenting an important exposure pathway to humans. The presence of PBDEs in various products of everyday use may lead to some additional exposure in the home environment. Dust seem to be an aggregate of the indoor source, and the ingestion of dust conveys the highest intake of BDE-209 of all sources, possibly also of other PBDE congeners. The PBDE exposure through dust is significant for toddlers who ingest more dust than adults. Infants are also exposed to PBDEs via breast milk. Internal human exposure has generally been found to be one order of magnitude larger in North America than in Europe and Asia. These differences cannot solely be explained by the dietary intake as meat products are the only food group where some differences has been observed. However, indoor air and dust concentrations have been found to be approximately one order of magnitude higher in North America than in Europe, possibly a result of different fire safety standards. Within Europe, higher PBDE concentrations in dust were found in the UK than in continental Europe. Recent studies have shown that BDE-209 also accumulates in humans. A shift in congener composition from maternal to umbilical cord blood has been observed in several cases. A shift has also been observed for BDE-209, which is present in larger ratios in umbilical cord blood and in particular in placenta than in maternal blood.

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