Are brominated flame retardants endocrine disruptors?

Environ Int. 2003 Sep;29(6):879-85. doi: 10.1016/S0160-4120(03)00104-1.


Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are a group of compounds that have received much attention recently due to their similarity with "old" classes of organohalogenated compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in terms of their fate, stability in the environment and accumulation in humans and wildlife. Toxic effects, including teratogenicity, carcinogenicity and neurotoxicity, have been observed for some BFR congeners, in particular the brominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs). This concise review focuses on the potency of BFRs and to disrupt endocrine systems, and attempts to answer the question whether or not BFRs are endocrine disruptors. Evidence is provided on the disruption of the thyroid hormone system by BFRs, with particular emphasis on the BDEs, as most recent data is available on this class of flame retardants. Similar to the hydroxylated PCBs, in vitro mechanistic studies as well as animal experiments have demonstrated the effects of BDEs on thyroid hormone transport and metabolism. An overview of possible effects of BFRs on the estrogen system is also provided. Research gaps are outlined, as well as ongoing and future studies in the European community aimed at contributing to comprehensive risk assessments based on the endocrine-disrupting effects of BFRs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Flame Retardants / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated / toxicity*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Thyroid Hormones / pharmacokinetics


  • Estrogens
  • Flame Retardants
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated
  • Thyroid Hormones