Brominated flame retardants - Exposure and risk assessment for the general population

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2016 Jan;219(1):1-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2015.08.004. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are a large group of different substances used in numerous products to prevent fire hazards. Some of them are persistent in the environment, accumulate in the food chain and are of toxicological concern, while for others current data are limited. Meanwhile, BFRs have been found in many environmental media, foods, and biota including humans. This review presents recent findings obtained from monitoring data in environmental media relevant for human exposure, as well as dietary exposure. In this context, concentrations in indoor and ambient air and in house dust are outlined. Furthermore, we summarize human biomonitoring data on BFR levels in blood and breast milk. Current estimates of the overall exposure of the general population using different relevant subsets are also addressed. All of these data are discussed in relation to currently available toxicological reference values used for risk assessment purposes. Obviously, the exposure of the general population varies considerably in different parts of the world and even within countries. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) show the highest intake during infancy. While the highest intake for BDE 47 for all groups was observed in the US, the total BDE 209 and HBCD intake was highest in the UK. For HBCD and all PBDEs except BDE 209, diet accounts for a large proportion of the total intake during infancy in all countries. With regard to toddlers and adults, the contribution of diet to total intake is high in Germany and the UK, while in the US, the high concentrations of PBDE in dust resulted in a notably smaller proportion of the intake being attributed to diet.

Keywords: Biomonitoring; Exposure; Flame retardants; HBCD; House dust; Indoor air; PBDE.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Dust
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Fires / prevention & control
  • Flame Retardants / analysis*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / administration & dosage*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated / administration & dosage*
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated / blood
  • Milk, Human


  • Dust
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated
  • hexabromocyclododecane