Brominated flame retardants, especially polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been widely used in North America, but little is known about the level of exposure of human populations to these compounds.
We set out to assess the internal exposure of postmenopausal Canadian women to selected organobromine compounds and to investigate factors associated with this exposure.
We measured concentrations of four PBDEs, one polybrominated biphenyl, and for comparative purposes, 41 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners in plasma samples from 110 healthy postmenopausal women who were recruited at a mammography clinic in 2003-2004.
PBDE-47 was the major PBDE congener, with a mean (geometric) concentration of 8.1 ng/g lipids and extreme values reaching 1,780 ng/g. By comparison, the mean concentration of the major PCB congener (PCB-153) was 41.7 ng/g and the highest value was 177 ng/g. PBDEs 47, 99, and 100 were strongly intercorrelated, but weaker correlations were noted with PBDE-153. As the sum of PBDEs (summation operatorPBDEs) increased, the relative contribution of PBDE-47 to the summation operatorPBDEs increased, whereas that of PBDE-153 decreased. PBDE-153 was the only brominated compound correlated to PCB-153. PBDE levels were not linked to any sociodemographic, anthropometric, reproductive, or lifestyle variables documented in the present study. Age and body mass index gain since the age of 18 years were significant predictors of PCB-153 plasma levels.
Our results suggest that exposure to PBDE-47 likely occurs through direct contact with the penta-PBDE formulation, whereas exposure to PBDE-153 may originate in part from the food chain.
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