Correlates of plasma concentrations of brominated flame retardants in a cohort of U.S. Black women residing in the Detroit, Michigan metropolitan area

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Apr 20:714:136777. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136777. Epub 2020 Jan 18.


Background: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) are brominated flame retardant chemicals detectable in the environment and U.S. population, and are associated with adverse health outcomes over the life course. Correlates of these organic pollutants are understudied among U.S. Black women.

Methods: Using baseline data from a prospective cohort study of U.S. Black women aged 23-35 years from the Detroit area of Michigan (2010-2012), we examined correlates of PBDEs and PBB-153. Non-fasting blood samples were collected from 742 participants at enrollment, a subset of women selected for a case-cohort study of environmental chemicals. Data on socio-demographics, behaviors, diet, medical history, and early-life exposures were collected via self-administered questionnaires, telephone interviews, and in-person clinic visits. We fit linear regression models to calculate percent differences and 95% confidence intervals in lipid adjusted plasma concentrations of 11 individual PBDE congeners and PBB-153 for each baseline predictor.

Results: In models adjusted for all other correlates, a 5-year increase in age was inversely associated with most PBDE congeners (% differences ranged from 6 to 15% lower), and was positively associated with PBB-153 (52% higher). A 5-kg/m2 increase in BMI was inversely associated with PBDE-153 and PBB-153 (16% lower for both), and 6% higher for PBDE-28. Compared with having never been breastfed in infancy, ≥3 months of breastfeeding in infancy was associated with 69% higher PBB-153 concentrations. Lower education, current smoking, and heavy alcohol use were associated with higher plasma concentrations of most flame retardants. Diet was not an important predictor.

Conclusion: Important correlates for elevated body burdens of PBB-153 were increasing age and a history of having been breastfed in infancy. Education, smoking, and heavy alcohol use were important predictors of elevated body burdens of most flame retardants. This study fills an important gap in the environmental health literature by focusing on an understudied population.

Keywords: Black women; Endocrine disrupting chemical; Flame retardant; PBB 153; PBDE; Predictors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Female
  • Flame Retardants / analysis*
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Humans
  • Michigan
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers