Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants) in mother-infant pairs in the Southeastern U.S

Int J Environ Health Res. 2017 Jun;27(3):205-214. doi: 10.1080/09603123.2017.1332344. Epub 2017 Jun 9.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are commonly used flame retardants in foams, building material, electronics, and textiles. These chemicals leach into the environment, where they persist, and are found today in virtually every population worldwide. Several studies in recent years have detected the presence of PBDEs in maternal and infant samples. However, few of these studies were conducted in the U.S., and few examined paired or matched mother blood-cord blood samples. We analyzed serum from 10 mother-infant pairs for the presence of PBDEs in a patient population in the Southeastern U.S. Out of 35 measured PBDE congeners, five (BDE-28, -47, -99, -100, and -153) were present, with detection frequencies of 65-100 %. The total PBDE concentrations in maternal and infant sera were highly correlated (r2 = 0.710, p = 0.0043). The levels of BDE-47, -99, and -100 and of total PBDEs were higher in the infant cord sera when compared with those in maternal sera (p < 0.017), suggesting that fetuses and neonates might have higher circulating concentrations of these potentially neurotoxic and endocrine disrupting chemicals compared with their mothers. The primary focus henceforward should be whether there are any deleterious effects from exposure to these chemicals on human health.

Keywords: PBDEs; fetal exposure; maternal exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Flame Retardants / analysis*
  • Flame Retardants / pharmacokinetics
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / analysis*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Pregnancy
  • Southeastern United States


  • Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers