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Diet May Contribute Significantly to Body Burden of Flame Retardants

A study published online 18 June 2009 ahead of print in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) suggests that diet is an important route of exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs are a class of flame retardants that are commonly found in consumer products such as polyurethane foam, electronics and textiles.

PBDEs have been measured in dust, air and both animal- and plant-derived foods. Dust has been thought to be the foremost route of exposure to PBDEs, but the new findings of this study suggest that diet also may play a significant role. Serum levels of PBDE congeners were associated with consumption of fat from poultry and red meat but not with consumption of fish or dairy products.

Although it is not known how flame retardants get into commercial animal products, possibilities include the contamination of animal feed, contamination during processing or packaging and general contamination of the environment. PBDEs accumulate in fat tissue and resist degradation in the environment.

“Our study offers the first large-scale look at the effect of the American diet on PBDE body burdens showing significant associations with poultry and red meat consumption,” wrote the team of authors from the Boston University School of Public Health. “As PBDE-containing products continue to degrade and enter the waste stream in larger amounts, future exposure to PBDEs may begin to shift more heavily from the indoor environment to the outdoor environment and, consequently, the diet.”

PBDEs have been shown to cause adverse endocrine, neurologic and hepatic effects in laboratory animals. Human studies to date suggest PBDEs may affect male development, reproductive hormones and fertility and thyroid hormone homeostasis.

Authors of the paper included Alicia J. Fraser, Thomas F. Webster and Michael D. McClean. This research was supported in part by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

The article is available free of charge at

EHP is published by the NIEHS, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. EHP is an Open Access journal. More information is available online at Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing handles marketing and public relations for the publication and is responsible for creation and distribution of this press release.

Julie Hayworth-Perman | Newswise Science News
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Further reports about: DIET EHP Environmental Health Health Human vaccine NIEHS PBDE Retardants environmental risk

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