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Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Mar 3;49(5):2948-58. doi: 10.1021/es5055918. Epub 2015 Feb 18.

High exposure of California firefighters to polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

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Environmental Chemistry Laboratory, Department of Toxic Substances Control, California Environmental Protection Agency , Berkeley, California 94710, United States.


Concern about persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Californians prompted the state's biomonitoring program to conduct a study in firefighters, who are occupationally exposed to high levels of POPs. In this work we present serum concentrations of several classes of POPs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers [PBDEs], polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], and organochlorine pesticides [OCPs]) in 101 Southern California firefighters. Despite recently reported declining trends of PBDEs in Californians, high levels were measured in firefighters' serum (Σ5PBDEs: median = 59.1 ng/(g of lipid); range = 18.8-714 ng/(g of lipid)) in comparison to other populations in California during the same period. In addition, nearly one-third of subjects had particularly high serum levels of decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209), consistent with other recent results in firefighters; this pattern may be a marker of recent firefighting activity. In contrast, serum levels of PCBs and OCPs measured in firefighters' sera were not elevated compared to U.S. levels. Multivariable analysis indicated that lower levels of serum PBDEs were associated with turnout gear cleaning and storage practices after fires. Our study supports the hypothesis that firefighting activities are likely to increase exposure to PBDEs and that good housekeeping and personal hygiene practices may reduce exposure to these compounds.

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