BACKGROUND: Recent studies have raised concerns about polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardant exposures to pregnant women and women of child-bearing age in the United States. Few studies have measured PBDEs in immigrant populations. OBJECTIVES: Our goal was to characterize levels of seven PBDE congeners, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-153, and polybrominated biphenyl (PBB)-153 in plasma from 24 pregnant women of Mexican descent living in an agricultural community in California. RESULTS: The median concentration of the sum of the PBDE congeners was 21 ng/g lipid and ranged from 5.3 to 320 ng/g lipid. Consistent with other studies, 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) was found at the highest concentration (median = 11 ng/g lipid; range, 2.5-205) followed by 2,2',4,4',5-pentabromobiphenyl (BDE-99) (median = 2.9 ng/g lipid; range, 0.5-54), 2,2',4,4',5-pentaBDE (BDE-100) (median = 1.8 ng/g lipid; range, 0.6-44), and 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexaBDE (BDE-153) (median = 1.5 ng/g lipid; range, 0.4-35). Levels of PCB-153 (median= 4.4 ng/g lipid; range, < 2-75) were lower than U.S. averages and uncorrelated with PBDE levels, suggesting different exposure routes. CONCLUSIONS: The overall levels of PBDEs found were lower than levels observed in other U.S. populations, although still higher than those observed previously in Europe or Japan. The upper range of exposure is similar to what has been reported in other U.S. populations. PBDEs have been associated with adverse developmental effects in animals. Future studies are needed to determine the sources and pathways of PBDE exposures and whether these exposures have adverse effects on human health.
Center for Children's Environmental Health Research, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, 94720-7380