Exposure of Americans to polybrominated diphenyl ethers

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2008 Jan;18(1):2-19. doi: 10.1038/sj.jes.7500572. Epub 2007 Apr 11.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, are a class of brominated flame retardants that, like other persistent organic pollutants (POPs), have been found in humans, wildlife, and biota worldwide. Unlike other POPs, however, the key routes of human exposure are not thought to be food and fish, but rather are from their use in household consumer products, and to the high levels of PBDEs found in house dust. The exposure of Americans to PBDEs was systematically evaluated in this study. First, exposure media data on PBDE congeners were compiled. Then, an adult intake dose was derived using exposure factors in combination with these data. The exposure pathways evaluated included food and water ingestion, inhalation, and ingestion and dermal contact to house dust. These intakes were converted to a body burden using a simple pharmacokinetic (PK) model. The predicted body burdens were compared with representative profiles of PBDEs in blood and milk. The adult intake dose of total PBDEs was estimated to be 7.7 ng/kg body weight/day, and children's estimated intakes were higher at 49.3 ng/kg/day for ages 1-5, 14.4 ng/kg/day for 6-11, and 9.1 ng/kg/day for 12-19. The much higher dose for the child age 1-5 was due to the doubling of dust ingestion from 50 to 100 mg/day. The predicted adult body burden of total PBDEs was 33.8 ng/kg lipid weight (lwt), compared to representative measurements in blood and milk at 64.0 and 93.7 ng/g lwt, respectively Most of this apparent underprediction in total concentration was due to an underprediction of the key congener, BDE 47. The value for BDE 47 half-life in the body was identified as the variable most likely in error in this exercise. Other congener predictions compared well with measurements, suggesting general validity with the approach. An important finding from this assessment is that the food intake estimate of about 1.3 ng/kg/day (of the 7.7 ng/kg/day total) cannot explain current US body burdens; exposures to PBDEs in house dust accounted for 82% of the overall estimated intakes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor
  • Animals
  • Body Burden
  • Dust
  • Eating
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Flame Retardants / pharmacokinetics
  • Flame Retardants / toxicity
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipids / pharmacokinetics
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Public Health
  • Risk Assessment
  • Time Factors
  • United States


  • Dust
  • Flame Retardants
  • Lipids
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls