Levels and distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in humans and environmental compartments: a comprehensive review of the last five years of research

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2020 Feb;27(6):5744-5758. doi: 10.1007/s11356-020-07598-7. Epub 2020 Jan 13.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), present in the environment, animals, and humans. Their levels, distribution, and human exposure have been studied extensively, and over the last decade, various legal measures have been taken to prohibit or minimize their production and use due to the increasing amount of evidence of their harmful effects on human and animal health.Our aim here was to make a comprehensive and up-to-date review of the levels and distribution of PBDEs in the aquatic environment, air, and soil, in indoor dust, and in humans. To fulfill this, we searched through Web of Science for literature data reported in the last five years (2015-2019) on levels of at least six key PBDE congeners in abovementioned matrices. According to our summarized data, significant PBDE mass concentrations/fractions are still being detected in various sample types across the world, which implies that PBDE contamination is an ongoing problem. Secondary sources of PBDEs like contaminated soils and landfills, especially those with electronic and electrical waste (e-waste), represent a particular risk to the future and therefore require a special attention of scientists.

Keywords: Brominated flame retardants; Environmental matrices; Human exposure; PBDE; POPs; Persistent organic pollutants; Review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis
  • Flame Retardants*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers* / analysis
  • Humans


  • Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers