A, NG Dodder, MP Abernathy, RA Hites and RM Bigsby. 2003. Polybrominated
Diphenyl Ethers in Maternal and Fetal Blood Samples. Environmental
Health Perspectives doi:10.1289/ehp.6146.
diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are widely used as flame retardants
in many consumer products. Laboratory data indicate they intefere
with thyroid hormone, and are thus suspected of disrupting neurological
with neonatal mice confirm their developmental neurotoxicity.
In this publication, Mazdai et al. report finding levels
of brominated flame retardants in maternal and fetal serum in Indiana
far exceeding levels that moved Sweden to ban PBDEs in that
did they do? Mazdai et al. extracted maternal
and cord blood serum from 15 women in labor from two hospitals in
Indiana, and then analyzed these samples for PBDE levels. Three
of the mother-infant samples were eliminated because because of
quality-control issues, leaving twelve paired samples for analysis.
The samples were processed through a linked gas chromatograph-mass
spectrometer to determine PBDE concentrations. They also determined
thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) levels in the serum.
of the women worked in occupations that would lead to high PBDE
exposures, nor did any smoke. No birth defects were detected in
any of the infants.
did they find? Mazdai et al. found relatively high levels
of PBDEs in all samples examined. Concentrations ranged from 15
580 ng/g lipid in maternal serum and 14-460 ng/g in fetal samples,
and the concentrations found in fetal samples ranged from 14 –
460 ng/g lipid.
and fetal PBDE levels were highly correlated (r2=0.986).
the six different PBDE congeners measured, BDE-47 was the most abundant,
found in all samples and accounting for up to 64% of all PBDEs measured.
found no correlation between PBDE levels and any clinical measurements
taken, e.g., body weight or thyroid hormone levels.
does it mean? In this first report of maternal and fetal
PBDE levels from the United States, PBDEs were found in all samples
taken. Compared to a similar sample from Sweden, these levels are
20 to 69-fold higher for US mothers and 30 to 106-fold higher for
US newborns. Indeed the US levels are comparable to measurements
in Sweden obtained from workers exposed occupationally. The Swedish
measurements have already prompted the Swedish government to institute
a ban on PBDE use in that country.
from the US 15 years ago were dramatically lower, by as much as
a factor of 100.
study indicates that body burden of PBDEs have risen greatly within
the US over the past decade. While the sample size of this study
is small and geographically limited, simultaneous
publication of another study with similar results from California
would suggest it is likely to be a widespread trend.
near-perfect correlation between maternal and fetal samples shows
that PBDEs readily cross placental barriers.
the powerful ability of some PBDEs
to interfere with thyroid function, and the crucial role of thyroid
in regulating fetal development, especially of the brain, this finding
justifies urgent steps to (1) confirm the trend and (2) eliminate
PBDE releases into the environment.