Human exposure to PBDEs: associations of PBDE body burdens with food consumption and house dust concentrations

Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Mar 1;41(5):1584-9. doi: 10.1021/es0620282.


This study was designed to determine the body burden of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) among first-time mothers in the Greater Boston, Massachusetts area and to explore key routes of exposure. We collected breast milk samples from 46 first-time mothers, 2-8 weeks after birth. We also sampled house dust from the homes of a subset of participants by vacuuming commonly used areas. Data on personal characteristics, diet, home furniture, and electrical devices were gathered from each participant using a questionnaire. Breast milk and dust samples were analyzed for PBDEs using gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry. PBDE concentrations were log-normally distributed in breast milk and dust. We found statistically significant, positive associations between PBDE concentrations in breast milk and house dust (r = 0.76, p = 0.003, not including BDE-209), as well as with reported dietary habits, particularly the consumption of dairy products (r = 0.41, p = 0.005) and meat (r = 0.37, p = 0.01). Due to low detection rates, it was not possible to draw conclusions about the association between BDE-209 in milk and dust. Our results support the hypothesis that the indoor environment and diet both play prominent roles in adult human exposure to PBDEs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Burden*
  • Boston
  • Dust*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Food*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Humans
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Phenyl Ethers / pharmacokinetics*
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dust
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Phenyl Ethers
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls
  • pentabromodiphenyl ether