Critical factors in assessing exposure to PBDEs via house dust

Environ Int. 2008 Nov;34(8):1085-91. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2008.03.006. Epub 2008 May 5.


Assessment of indoor exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) requires a critical examination of methods that may influence exposure estimates and comparisons between studies. We measured PBDEs in residential dust collected from 20 homes in Boston, MA, to examine 5 key questions: 1) Does the choice of dust exposure metric-e.g., concentration (ng/g) or dust loading (ng/m2)-affect analysis and results? 2) To what degree do dust concentrations change over time? 3) Do dust concentrations vary between rooms? 4) Is the home vacuum bag an acceptable surrogate for researcher-collected dust? 5) Are air and dust concentrations correlated for the same room? We used linear mixed-effects models to analyze the data while accounting for within-home and within-room correlations. We found that PBDE dust concentration and surface loading were highly correlated (r=0.86-0.95, p<0.001). Average dust concentrations did not significantly differ over an 8-month period, possibly because home furnishings changed little over this time. We observed significant differences between rooms in the same home: PBDE concentrations in the main living area were 97% higher than the bedroom for decaBDE (p=0.02) and 72% higher for pentaBDE (p=0.05). Home vacuum bag dust concentrations were significantly lower than researcher-collected dust and not strongly correlated. Air (vapor and particulate phase) and dust concentrations were correlated for pentaBDE (p=0.62, p<0.01), but not for decaBDE (p=0.25). In addition, potential markers of BDE 209 debromination (BDE 202 and the BDE197:BDE201 ratio) were also observed in household dust samples. One vacuum bag sample contained the highest concentrations of BDE 209 (527,000 ng/g) and total PBDEs (544,000 ng/g) that have been reported in house dust.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Boston
  • Dust*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / toxicity*


  • Dust
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls