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Chemosphere. 2008 Sep;73(2):195-202. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2008.04.079. Epub 2008 Jun 16.

Toxicity of analytically cleaned pentabromodiphenylether after prolonged exposure in estuarine European flounder (Platichthys flesus), and partial life-cycle exposure in fresh water zebrafish (Danio rerio).

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Department of Pathobiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Residues of polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), extensively applied as flame retardants, are widely spread in the aquatic environment and biota. The present study investigates effects of the environmentally relevant lower brominated diphenylethers in two fish species in vivo under controlled laboratory conditions. Euryhaline flounder (Platichthys flesus) and freshwater zebrafish (Danio rerio) were exposed to a range of concentrations of a commercial pentabromodiphenylether mixture, DE-71. Chemical analysis of exposed fish showed a pattern of PBDE congeners that was very similar to that in wild fish. The resulting range included environmentally relevant, as well as higher levels. Animals were investigated histopathologically with emphasis on endocrine and reproductive organs. In zebrafish, hatching of embryos and larval development were assessed. Biochemical parameters were investigated in flounder as markers for suggested dioxin-like activity (ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase=EROD), and activation of endogenous estrogen synthesis (gonad aromatase activity). Thyroid hormones were analyzed in plasma in both species. Benchmark analysis using internal PBDE concentrations showed a mild dose-dependent decrease of hepatic EROD and ovarian aromatase activities, and plasma thyroxin levels in flounder, and an increase of plasma thyroid hormone levels in zebrafish. These trends did not result in statistically significant differences from control fish, and major histopathological changes were not observed. Reproduction in zebrafish appeared to be the most sensitive parameter with statistically significantly reduced larval survival and non-significant indications for decreased egg production at internal levels that were more than 55 times the highest environmental recordings. The present results indicate limited risk for endocrine or reproductive effects of current environmental PBDE contamination in fish.

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