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Pure and Applied Chemistry

The Scientific Journal of IUPAC

Ed. by Burrows, Hugh / Weir, Ron / Stohner, Jürgen


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Brominated flame retardants and endocrine disruption

J. G. Vos1 / Georg Becher1 / M. van den Berg1 / J. de Boer1 / P. E. G. Leonards1

1National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands; Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway; Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands; Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research, IJmuiden, The Netherlands

Citation Information: Pure and Applied Chemistry. Volume 75, Issue 11-12, Pages 2039–2046, ISSN (Online) 1365-3075, ISSN (Print) 0033-4545, DOI: 10.1351/pac200375112039, January 2009

Publication History

Published Online:
2009-01-01

From an environmental point of view, an increasing important group of organohalogen compounds are the brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which are widely used in polymers and textiles and applied in construction materials, furniture, and electronic equipment. BFRs with the highest production volume are the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBP-A), and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). Because of their persistence and low biodegradation profile, several of the PBDE congeners accumulate in biota and are widely found in the aquatic food chain. Their levels in the environment and in humans have increased during the last decades, in contrast to compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), for example. Humans may be exposed to PBDEs mainly through consumption of fatty food of animal origin (e.g., fish), but exposure through skin contact with textiles protected with flame retardants or through inhalation of BFRs volatilized from electronic and electric equipment may also occur. The levels of PBDEs in Swedish human milk showed a doubling in concentration every five years over the period 1972 to 1997 (2,2',4,4'-tetraBDE being the predominant congener). The levels of penta- and hexa-BDEs increased at the same rate in ringed seals collected in the Canadian Arctic from 1981 to 2000. PBDEs exhibit a great variety of biological effects, depending on the bromine substitution pattern. PBDEs are potential endocrine disrupters, based on shared toxicity with the structurally related PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) (partial aryl hydrocarbon- [Ah-] receptor agonist and antagonist activity in vitro, thyroid toxicity, and immune effects), including developmental toxicity. The potency of TBBP-A to interact with thyroid hormone homeostasis is indicated from in vitro studies in which the compound competes with thyroxin (T4) for binding to transthyretin (TTR). So far, the toxicological profile of many BFRs is too incomplete and insufficient to perform an adequate risk assessment, and further information is required regarding the potential for endocrine disruption of these compounds that are of increasing environmental concern.

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