Significantly higher polybrominated diphenyl ether levels in young U.S. children than in their mothers

Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Jul 1;44(13):5256-62. doi: 10.1021/es1009357.


While young children are rarely included in biomonitoring studies, they are presumed to be at greater risk of ingesting environmental contaminants-particularly those that accumulate in foods or shed from consumer products. The widely used fire retardants polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are ubiquitous contaminants in the indoor environment and are widely detected at higher levels in Americans than in individuals from other countries. However, there are only three studies of PBDEs in U.S. children. We hypothesized that PBDEs are present in higher concentrations in young children than their mothers. PBDEs were assessed in blood samples collected concurrently from 20 mothers and their children, ages 1.5 to 4 years. The chemical analyses were performed by GC/MS applying selected ion monitoring. The samples were analyzed for 20 PBDE congeners; 11 were detected. SigmaPBDEs for children were typically 2.8 times higher than for mothers, with median child:mother ratios varying from 2 to 4 for individual congeners. In 19 of 20 families studied, children had higher SigmaPBDE concentrations than their mothers with significant (p < 0.01) concentration differences for five of the PBDE congeners. Decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) was quantitated in 13 children and 9 mothers. Other studies indicate PBDEs are not elevated at birth, suggesting that early life is an intense period of PBDE intake. Children's increased hand-to-mouth activity, dietary preferences, and exposures from breast milk may result in greater ingestion of PBDEs than adults. These findings suggest that measurements from adults likely do not reflect exposures to young children despite sharing homes and similar diets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Risk
  • Time Factors
  • United States


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers