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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Biomonitoring Breast Milk Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers as a Function of Environment, Dietary Intake, and Demographics in New Hampshire

item Dunn, Rebecca
item Huwe, Janice
item Carey, Gale

Submitted to: Chemosphere
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/7/2010
Publication Date: 8/13/2010
Citation: Dunn, R.L., Huwe, J.K., Carey, G.B. 2010. Biomonitoring breast milk polybrominated diphenyl ethers as a function of environment, dietary intake, and demographics in New Hampshire. Chemosphere. 80:1175-1182. DOI:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.06.017.

Interpretive Summary: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of flame retardant chemicals widely-used in electronics, textiles, and household good. Humans are exposed to PBDEs through both their diet and their indoor environment. Because PBDEs are known to be present in breast milk and may have developmental health effects, it is important to understand more about the levels of these contaminants in breast milk and what this may mean for nursing infants. We have therefore studied a group of nursing mothers in New Hampshire and measured PBDE levels in their breast milk. We found that PBDE levels in breast milk in New Hampshire were within the range reported for other areas of the U.S. and that the levels did not significantly decrease in the breast milk during the first three months of lactation. Based on information which the women provided regarding their diet, home environment, and personal characteristics, it appeared that diets low in saturated fats and high in fruit consumption may be associated with lower levels of PBDEs in breast milk.

Technical Abstract: Breast milk is a valuable biological specimen for biomonitoring lipid-soluble polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The purpose of this study was to determine the levels of PBDEs in breast milk from New Hampshire and to examine potential relationships between PBDE levels in breast milk and stage of lactation, maternal characteristics, living environment and dietary intake. Forty women provided up to three breast milk samples at the end of their first, second and third month of breastfeeding for evaluation of day-to-day and month-to-month variation in PBDE levels. Participants completed four questionnaires, which provided maternal, living environment, and diet information. The sumPBDE concentrations in breast milk over the three-month collection period ranged from 6.5 to 166.7 ng/g lipid. The median for the three-month period was 29.7 ng/g. BDE-47 was the predominant congener, however, BDE-153 predominated in 20% of the participants’ samples. Day-to-day variation in sumPBDEs was negligible; there was no significant difference in mean PBDE levels from month-to-month. Positive associations were seen between BDE-153 and age, postpartum saturated fat consumption, and the home model. There was a negative association between PBDE levels and fruit consumption during the third trimester. Our results indicate that PBDE levels in breast milk from New Hampshire are within the range that has been reported in the U.S., and levels are stable during the first three-months of lactation. Our findings revealed a higher predominance pattern with BDE-153 compared to other studies, and indicate that PBDE levels are influenced by diet and the home environment.

Last Modified: 06/23/2017
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