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      Different Levels of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Chlorinated Compounds in Breast Milk from Two U.K. Regions

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          Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congeners are constituents of flame retardants, and there is growing concern regarding their persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity. We collected breast milk samples between late 2001 and early 2003 from 54 U.K.-resident mothers. Of these, 27 originated from southeast England (London), and the other 27 originated from northwest England (Lancaster). Analysis of milk-fat extracts by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry was performed to determine the levels of 15 PBDE congeners, 15 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, and other selected chlorinated compounds. PCB and organochlorine (OC) levels in southeast samples were consistently higher, and significant differences ( p < 0.05) were observed. ∑PBDE levels ranged from 0.3 to 69 ng/g lipid (geometric mean, 6.6 ng/g), and PBDE-47 was the most abundant congener. ∑PCB levels ranged from 26 to 530 ng/g lipid (geometric mean, 150 ng/g) and were composed mainly of PCB-153 (26%), PCB-138 (20%), and PCB-180 (13%). OC levels for 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis( p-chlorophenyl)ethane ( p, p′-DDT) and its metabolites (∑DDX) ranged from 24 to 2,300 ng/g lipid (geometric mean, 160 ng/g); hexachlorobenzene ranged from nondetectable levels to 180 ng/g lipid (geometric mean, 17 ng/g); and ∑hexachlorocyclohexane levels ranged from 1.2 to 1,500 ng/g lipid (geometric mean, 16 ng/g). Using nuclear magnetic resonance–based metabonomics, samples ( n = 7) containing the highest contaminant levels were compared with samples ( n = 7) containing the lowest levels. Excellent separation along the first principal component implied that the chemical constituents of the two groups were significantly different. Although reasons for such differences remain obscure, lifestyle factors associated with a more heterogeneous London cohort could be responsible. Identifying primary routes of contaminant exposures and their biologic effects is of great importance.

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          Most cited references 65

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          Phthalates, alkylphenols, pesticides, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and other endocrine-disrupting compounds in indoor air and dust.

          Chemicals identified as endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) have widespread consumer uses, yet little is known about indoor exposure. We sampled indoor air and dust in 120 homes, analyzing for 89 organic chemicals identified as EDCs. Fifty-two compounds were detected in air and 66 were detected in dust. These are the first reported measures in residential environments for over 30 of the compounds, including several detected at the highest concentrations. The number of compounds detected per home ranged from 13 to 28 in air and from 6 to 42 in dust. The most abundant compounds in air included phthalates (plasticizers, emulsifiers), o-phenylphenol (disinfectant), 4-nonylphenol (detergent metabolite), and 4-tert-butylphenol (adhesive) with typical concentrations in the range of 50-1500 ng/m3. The penta- and tetrabrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants) were frequently detected in dust, and 2,3-dibromo-1-propanol, the carcinogenic intermediate of a flame retardant banned in 1977, was detected in air and dust. Twenty-three pesticides were detected in air and 27 were detected in dust, the most abundant being permethrins and the synergist piperonyl butoxide. The banned pesticides heptachlor, chlordane, methoxychlor, and DDT were also frequently detected, suggesting limited indoor degradation. Detected concentrations exceeded government health-based guidelines for 15 compounds, but no guidelines are available for 28 compounds, and existing guidelines do not consider endocrine effects. This study provides a basis for prioritizing toxicology and exposure research for individual EDCs and mixtures and provides new tools for exposure assessment in health studies.
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            An overview of commercially used brominated flame retardants, their applications, their use patterns in different countries/regions and possible modes of release.

            Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are used in a variety of consumer products and several of those are produced in large quantities. These compounds have been detected in environmental samples, which can be attributed to the anthropogenic uses of these compounds. Brominated flame retardants are produced via direct bromination of organic molecules or via addition of bromine to alkenes; hence, an overview of the production and usage of bromine over the past three decades is covered. Production, application, and environmental occurrence of high production brominated flame retardants including Tetrabromobisphenol A, polybrominated biphenyls, Penta-, Octa-, Deca-brominated diphenyl ether (oxide) formulation and hexabromocyclododecane are discussed.
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              Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the environment and in people: a meta-analysis of concentrations.

               Ronald Hites (2004)
              Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used as flame retardants in many types of consumer products. Perhaps as a result of their widespread use and their lipophilicity, these compounds have become ubiquitous in the environment and in people. This review summarizes PBDE concentrations measured in several environmental media and analyzes these data in terms of relative concentrations, concentration trends, and congener profiles. In human blood, milk, and tissues, total PBDE levels have increased exponentially by a factor of approximately 100 during the last 30 yr; this is a doubling time of approximately 5 yr. The current PBDE concentrations in people from Europe are approximately 2 ng/g lipid, but the concentrations in people from the United States are much higher at approximately 35 ng/g lipid. Current PBDE concentrations in marine mammals from the Canadian Arctic are very low at approximately 5 ng/g lipid, but they have increased exponentially with a doubling time of approximately 7 yr. Marine mammals from the rest of the world have current PBDE levels of approximately 1000 ng/g lipid, and these concentrations have also increased exponentially with a doubling time of approximately 5 yr. Some birds' eggs from Sweden are also highly contaminated (at approximately 2000 ng/g lipid) and show PBDE doubling times of approximately 6 yr. Herring gull eggs from the Great Lakes region now have PBDE concentrations of approximately 7000 ng/g lipid, and these levels have doubled every approximately 3 yr. Fish from Europe have approximately 10 times lower PBDE concentrations than fish from North America. From these and other data, it is clear that the environment and people from North America are very much more contaminated with PBDEs as compared to Europe and that these PBDE levels have doubled every 4-6 yr. Analyses of the relative distributions of the most abundant PBDE congeners (using category averages and principal component analysis) indicated that these patterns cannot yet be used to assign sources to these pollutants.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health Perspect
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                National Institue of Environmental Health Sciences
                July 2004
                21 April 2004
                : 112
                : 10
                : 1085-1091
                1Department of Environmental Science and
                2Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Environmental and Natural Sciences, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom
                3Environmental Research Solutions, North Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, United Kingdom
                4Biological Chemistry, Division of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, United Kingdom
                5Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre, Unilever Colworth, Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to F.L. Martin, Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Environmental and Natural Sciences, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. Telephone: +44-1524-594505. Fax: +44-1524-843854. E-mail: f.martin@lancaster.ac.uk

                O.I.K. and F.L.M. are joint first authors.

                We thank the individuals who donated samples for the purposes of our study. We also thank G. Weaver, Milk Bank Co-ordinator at Hammersmith Hospital, London; and the staff at the Neonatal Unit, Lancaster Hospital, for their time during the collection of samples.

                This study was supported in part by the Lancaster University Research Committee Small Grants Scheme and the North West Cancer Research Fund.

                The authors declare they have no competing financial interests.

                This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original DOI.


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