Improving infant exposure and health risk estimates: using serum data to predict polybrominated diphenyl ether concentrations in breast milk

Environ Sci Technol. 2013 May 7;47(9):4787-95. doi: 10.1021/es305229d. Epub 2013 Apr 25.


Women in the United States have breast milk concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that are among the highest in the world, leading to concerns over the potential health implications to breastfeeding infants during critical stages of growth and development. Developing cost-effective and sustainable methods for assessing chemical exposures in infants is a high priority to federal agencies and local communities. PBDE data are available in nationally representative serum samples but not in breast milk. As a method to predict PBDE concentrations in U.S. breast milk, we present the development of congener-specific linear regression partitioning models and their application to U.S. serum data. Models were developed from existing paired milk and serum data and applied to 2003-2004 NHANES serum data for U.S. women. Highest estimated median U.S. breast milk concentrations were for BDE-47 (30.6 ng/g lipid) and BDE-99 (6.1 ng/g lipid) with the median concentration of Σ7PBDEs estimated at 54.2 ng/g lipid. Predictions of breast milk PBDE concentration were consistent with reported concentrations from 11 similarly timed U.S. studies. When applied to NHANES data, these models provide a sustainable method for estimating population-level concentrations of PBDEs in U.S. breast milk and should improve exposure estimates in breastfeeding infants.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / analysis*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers