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1.  Debromination of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers by Nanoscale Zerovalent Iron: Pathways, Kinetics, and Reactivity 
Environmental science & technology  2010;44(21):8236-8242.
The debromination of selected polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) by nanoscale zerovalent iron particles (nZVI) was studied to investigate the degradation pathways and the reaction kinetics of the PBDEs. The primary PBDE investigated was 2,3,4-tribromo diphenyl ether (BDE 21) to assess degradation pathways. nZVI could effectively debrominate the selected PBDEs into lower brominated compounds and diphenyl ether, a completely debrominated form of PBDEs. The susceptibility of the meta-bromine by nZVI was observed from the debromination tests for PBDEs with single-flanked (2,3-diBDE and 3,4-diBDE) and unflanked (three monoBDEs) bromines. The stepwise debromination from n-bromo- to (n-1)-bromodiphenyl ether was observed as the dominant reaction process, although simultaneous multistep debromination seemed to be plausible for di-BDEs having two bromines adjacent on the same phenyl ring. The reaction rate constants were estimated by assuming the reaction between PBDEs and nZVI was a pseudo-first order reaction and the rates decreased with fewer bromine substituents. The reaction rate constants were correlated with the heat of formation and the energy of the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital of the corresponding compounds, and these appear to be useful descriptors of relative reaction rates among PBDE homologue groups.
PMCID: PMC2969174  PMID: 20923154
2.  Hormone Activity of Hydroxylated Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers on Human Thyroid Receptor-β: In Vitro and In Silico Investigations 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;118(5):602-606.
Hydroxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (HO-PBDEs) may disrupt thyroid hormone status because of their structural similarity to thyroid hormone. However, the molecular mechanisms of interactions with thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) are not fully understood.
We investigated the interactions between HO-PBDEs and TRβ to identify critical structural features and physicochemical properties of HO-PBDEs related to their hormone activity, and to develop quantitative structure–activity relationship (QSAR) models for the thyroid hormone activity of HO-PBDEs.
We used the recombinant two-hybrid yeast assay to determine the hormone activities to TRβ and molecular docking to model the ligand–receptor interaction in the binding site. Based on the mechanism of action, molecular structural descriptors were computed, selected, and employed to characterize the interactions, and finally a QSAR model was constructed. The applicability domain (AD) of the model was assessed by Williams plot.
The 18 HO-PBDEs tested exhibited significantly higher thyroid hormone activities than did PBDEs (p < 0.05). Hydrogen bonding was the characteristic interaction between HO-PBDE molecules and TRβ, and aromaticity had a negative effect on the thyroid hormone activity of HO-PBDEs. The developed QSAR model had good robustness, predictive ability, and mechanism interpretability.
Hydrogen bonding and electrostatic interactions between HO-PBDEs and TRβ are important factors governing thyroid hormone activities. The HO-PBDEs with higher ability to accept electrons tend to have weak hydrogen bonding with TRβ and lower thyroid hormone activities.
PMCID: PMC2866673  PMID: 20439171
application domain; density functional theory; docking; HO-PBDEs; hydroxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers; PBDEs; quantitative structure-activity relationship; thyroid hormone receptor
3.  Para- and Ortho-Substitutions Are Key Determinants of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether Activity toward Ryanodine Receptors and Neurotoxicity 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;119(4):519-526.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely used flame retardants that bioaccumulate in human tissues. Their neurotoxicity involves dysregulation of calcium ion (Ca2+) signaling; however, specific mechanisms have yet to be defined.
We aimed to define the structure–activity relationship (SAR) for PBDEs and their metabolites toward ryanodine receptors type 1 (RyR1) and type 2 (RyR2) and to determine whether it predicts neurotoxicity.
We analyzed [3H]ryanodine binding, microsomal Ca2+ fluxes, cellular measurements of Ca2+ homeostasis, and neurotoxicity to define mechanisms and specificity of PBDE-mediated Ca2+ dysregulation.
PBDEs possessing two ortho-bromine substituents and lacking at least one para-bromine substituent (e.g., BDE-49) activate RyR1 and RyR2 with greater efficacy than corresponding congeners with two para-bromine substitutions (e.g., BDE-47). Addition of a methoxy group in the free para position reduces the activity of parent PBDEs. The hydroxylated BDEs 6-OH-BDE-47 and 4′-OH-BDE-49 are biphasic RyR modulators. Pretreatment of HEK293 cells (derived from human embryonic kidney cells) expressing either RyR1 or RyR2 with BDE-49 (250 nM) sensitized Ca2+ flux triggered by RyR agonists, whereas BDE-47 (250 nM) had negligible activity. The divergent activity of BDE-49, BDE-47, and 6-OH-BDE-47 toward RyRs predicted neurotoxicity in cultures of cortical neurons.
We found that PBDEs are potent modulators of RyR1 and RyR2. A stringent SAR at the ortho and para position determined whether a congener enhanced, inhibited, or exerted nonmonotonic actions toward RyRs. These results identify a convergent molecular target of PBDEs previously identified for noncoplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that predicts their cellular neurotoxicity and therefore could be a useful tool in risk assessment of PBDEs and related compounds.
PMCID: PMC3080935  PMID: 21106467
calcium; hydroxylated PBDE; methoxylated PBDE; neurotoxicity; polybrominated biphenyl ether (PBDE); ryanodine receptor (RyR)
4.  Innovative application of Fluoro-tagging to trace airborne particulate and gas phase PBDE exposures 
Chemical research in toxicology  2009;22(1):179-186.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants applied as coatings to many consumer products, including household items. PBDEs are released and produce airborne vapors and dusts. Inhalation of particle-phase and/or gas-phase PBDEs is therefore a major route of exposure. In an attempt to mimic realistic airborne exposures, actual uptake and deposition of particles and vapors, we prepared and characterized particles for future animal exposure studies. To trace the particles in environmental and biological systems, we employed fluoro-tagging. We synthesized, characterized and employed three PBDE congeners 35, 47 and 99, and five fluoro-substituted-PBDEs (F-PBDEs), 17-F5′, 25-F5′, 28-F3′, 35-F5′, 47-F3, 99-F3′ for this study. The PBDE congeners were selected because they are commonly found in house dust. For that reason we coated spherical silica particles of 3 μm and C18 endcapped silica as representative and inert support materials, with 20%, 30% and 40% PBDEs. We determined the particle size distributions by aerodynamic particle size spectrometry and the morphology by scanning electron microscopy. The suitability of the fluoro-tagged tracers to mimic their corresponding parent PBDEs was investigated by extraction studies from spiked blood serum. Our study is of fundamental importance to the development of xenobiotic tracers for monitoring routes of human exposure to PBDEs and understanding uptake of PBDEs from particles and vapors.
PMCID: PMC3120107  PMID: 19111055
5.  Hydroxylation Increases the Neurotoxic Potential of BDE-47 to Affect Exocytosis and Calcium Homeostasis in PC12 Cells 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;116(5):637-643.
Oxidative metabolism, resulting in the formation of hydroxylated polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) metabolites, may enhance the neurotoxic potential of brominated flame retardants.
Our objective was to investigate the effects of a hydroxylated metabolite of 2,2′,4,4′-tetra-bromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47; 6-OH-BDE-47) on changes in the intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) and vesicular catecholamine release in PC12 cells.
We measured vesicular catecholamine release and [Ca2+]i using amperometry and imaging of the fluorescent Ca2+-sensitive dye Fura-2, respectively.
Acute exposure of PC12 cells to 6-OH-BDE-47 (5 μM) induced vesicular catecholamine release. Catecholamine release coincided with a transient increase in [Ca2+]i, which was observed shortly after the onset of exposure to 6-OH-BDE-47 (120 μM). An additional late increase in [Ca2+]i was often observed at ≥1 μM 6-OH-BDE-47. The initial transient increase was absent in cells exposed to the parent compound BDE-47, whereas the late increase was observed only at 20 μM. Using the mitochondrial uncoupler carbonyl cyanide 4-(trifluoromethoxy)phenylhydrazone (FCCP) and thapsigargin to empty intracellular Ca2+ stores, we found that the initial increase originates from emptying of the endoplasmic reticulum and consequent influx of extracellular Ca2+, whereas the late increase originates primarily from mitochondria.
The hydroxylated metabolite 6-OH-BDE-47 is more potent in disturbing Ca2+ homeostasis and neurotransmitter release than the parent compound BDE-47. The present findings indicate that bioactivation by oxidative metabolism adds considerably to the neurotoxic potential of PBDEs. Additionally, based on the observed mechanism of action, a cumulative neurotoxic effect of PBDEs and ortho-substituted polychlorinated biphenyls on [Ca2+]i cannot be ruled out.
PMCID: PMC2367675  PMID: 18470311
bioactivation; brominated flame retardants; calcium; catecholamine; exocytosis; intra-cellular calcium stores; neurotoxicity; neurotransmitter release; persistent organic pollutants; poly-brominated diphenyl ether
6.  Hydroxylated Metabolites of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in Human Blood Samples from the United States 
A previous study from our laboratory showed that polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were metabolized to hydroxylated PBDEs (HO-PBDEs) in mice and that para-HO-PBDEs were the most abundant and, potentially, the most toxic metabolites.
The goal of this study was to determine the concentrations of HO-PBDEs in blood from pregnant women, who had not been intentionally or occupationally exposed to these flame retardants, and from their newborn babies.
Twenty human blood samples were obtained from a hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, and analyzed for both PBDEs and HO-PBDEs using electron-capture negative-ionization gas chromatographic mass spectrometry.
The metabolite pattern of HO-PBDEs in human blood was quite different from that found in mice; 5-HO-BDE-47 and 6-HO-BDE-47 were the most abundant metabolites of BDE-47, and 5′-HO-BDE-99 and 6′-HO-BDE-99 were the most abundant metabolites of BDE-99. The relative concentrations between precursor and corresponding metabolites indicated that BDE-99 was more likely to be metabolized than BDE-47 and BDE-100. In addition, three bromophenols were also detected as products of the cleavage of the diphenyl ether bond. The ratio of total hydroxylated metabolites relative to their PBDE precursors ranged from 0.10 to 2.8, indicating that hydroxylated metabolites of PBDEs were accumulated in human blood.
The quite different PBDE metabolite pattern observed in humans versus mice indicates that different enzymes might be involved in the metabolic process. Although the levels of HO-PBDE metabolites found in human blood were low, these metabolites seemed to be accumulating.
PMCID: PMC2627872  PMID: 19165393
bromophenols; flame retardants; HO-PBDEs; human blood; metabolites; PBDEs; polybrominated diphenyl ethers
7.  Prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) may influence birth weight among infants in a Swedish cohort with background exposure: a cross-sectional study 
Environmental Health  2013;12:44.
Prenatal exposure to persistent organic pollutants, e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) has been suggested to negatively affect birth weight although epidemiological evidence is still inconclusive. We investigated if prenatal exposure to PCBs and PBDEs is related to birth weight in a Swedish population with background exposure.
Breast milk was sampled during the third week after delivery from first-time mothers in Uppsala county, Sweden 1996–2010 (POPUP cohort) (N = 413). Samples were analysed for di-ortho PCBs (CB-138, 153, 180) and tetra- to hexa- brominated PBDEs (BDE-47, 99, 100, 153). Simple and multiple linear regression models were used to investigate associations between lipid-adjusted, ln-transformed PCB and PBDE concentrations, and birth weight. Covariates included in the multivariate regression model were PCB and PBDE exposure, maternal age, pre-pregnancy BMI, weight gain during pregnancy, education, smoking, gender of the infant and gestational length. The effect of including fish consumption was also investigated.
In the multivariate model, prenatal exposure to di-ortho PCBs was significantly associated with increased birth weight (β = 137; p = 0.02). The result did not change when gestational length was added to the model. An inverse association between PBDE(4) (sum of BDE-47, -99, -100 and −153) and birth weight was observed in the multivariate model including gestational length (β = −106; p = 0.04). Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and weight gain during pregnancy were important confounders of the association between di-ortho PCBs and birth weight. The associations were not alleviated after adjustment for fish consumption, a major source of PCB and PBDE exposure. The observed associations were stronger for boys than for girls.
Our results indicate that prenatal exposure to di-ortho PCBs and PBDE(4) may influence birth weight in different directions, i.e. PCB exposure was associated with higher birth weight and PBDE exposure with lower birth weight. Maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and weight gain during pregnancy were important confounders that may hide positive association between di-ortho PCB exposure and birth weight if they are not included in the statistical model. We speculate that even small PCB- and PBDE-induced shifts in the distribution of birth weight may influence future public health in populations with background exposure.
PMCID: PMC3673870  PMID: 23724965
Birth weight; Breast milk; PBDE; PCB; BMI; Weight gain; Fish consumption
8.  Hydroxylated Metabolites of the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether Mixture DE-71 Are Weak Estrogen Receptor-α Ligands 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;116(10):1315-1321.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely found in the environment and are suspected endocrine disruptors. We previously identified six hydroxylated metabolites of PBDE (OH-PBDEs) in treated mice.
We tested the hypothesis that OH-PBDEs would interact with and alter activity of estrogen receptor-α (ER-α).
We tested estrogenicity using two assays: 3H-estradiol (3H-E2) displacement from recombinant ER-α and induction of reporter gene (ERE-luciferase) in cultured cells. We incubated the PBDE mixture DE-71 with rat liver microsomes and tested the resultant metabolite mixture for estrogenic activity. We also determined relative estrogenic potential of individual hydroxylated PBDE congeners.
Reporter gene activity was increased by DE-71 that had been subjected to microsomal metabolism. DE-71 did not displace E2 from ER-α, but all six of the OH-PBDE metabolites did. para-Hydroxylated metabolites displayed a 10- to 30-fold higher affinity for ER-α compared with ortho-hydroxylated PBDEs, and one produced a maximal effect 30% higher than that produced by E2. Coadministration of E2 and DE-71, or certain of its metabolites, yielded reporter activity greater than either chemical alone. Two ortho-OH-PBDEs were antiestrogenic in the reporter assay.
The observations—that the DE-71 mixture did not displace 3H-E2 from ER-α while the hydroxylated metabolites did—suggest that the weak estrogenic effects of DE-71 are due to metabolic activation of individual congeners. However, the behavior of DE-71 and its metabolites, when co-administered with E2, suggest a secondary, undetermined mechanism from classical ER-α activation.
PMCID: PMC2569088  PMID: 18941571
cytochrome P450; DE-71; endocrine disruptors; ERE-luciferase; estrogens; mice; ovariectomized; PBDEs; polybrominated diphenyl ethers
A model was used to predict the photodebromination of the BDE-203, 197, 196, and 153, the major components of the octa-polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) technical mixture, as well as BDE-47, and the predicted results were compared to the experimental results. The predicted reaction time profiles of the photodebromination products correlate well with the experimental results. In addition, the slope of the linear regression between the measured product concentrations of the first step of the photodebromination products and their enthalpies of formation was found to be close to their theoretical value. The photodebromination results of the octa-BDE technical mixture were compared with anaerobic microbial debromination results and were found to be the same in both experiments. The debromination pathways of technical octa-BDE mixture were identified and BDE-154, 99, 47, and 31 were found to be the most abundant hexa-, penta-, tetra-, and tri-BDE debromination products, respectively. In addition to photodebromination and anaerobic biodebromination, the model prediction was also compared to the zero-valent iron reduction of BDE-209, 100, and 47 and the same debromination products were observed. Good correlation was observed between the photodebromination rate constants of fifteen PBDE congeners and their calculated lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO) energies, indicating that PBDE photodebromination is caused by electron transfer. Furthermore, the rate constants for the three different PBDE debromination processes are controlled by C–Br bond dissociation energy. With the model from the present study, the major debromination products for any PBDE congener released into the environment can be predicted.
PMCID: PMC3059408  PMID: 20821505
Polybrominated diphenyl ether; Model; Photodegradation; Anaerobic microbial debromination
10.  Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hydroxylated PBDEs (OH-PBDEs), and measures of thyroid function in second trimester pregnant women in California 
Environmental science & technology  2011;45(18):7896-7905.
Prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) may disrupt thyroid function and contribute to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. We conducted a pilot study to explore the relationship between serum concentrations of lower-brominated PBDEs (BDE-17 to -154), higher-brominated PBDEs (BDE-183 to -209), and hydroxylated PBDE metabolites (OH-PBDEs) with measures of thyroid function in pregnant women. Concentrations of PBDEs, OH-PBDEs, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), total thyroxine (T4), and free T4 were measured in serum samples collected between 2008 and 2009 from 25 second trimester pregnant women in California. Median concentrations of lower-brominated PBDEs and OH-PBDEs were the highest reported to date in pregnant women. Median concentrations of BDE-47 and the sum of lower-brominated PBDEs (ΣPBDE5) were 43.1 ng/g lipid and 85.8 ng/g lipid; and 0.084 ng/mL for the sum of OH-PBDEs (ΣOH-PBDE4). We observed a positive association between the weighted sum of chemicals known to bind to transthyretin (ΣTTR binders) and TSH levels. We also found positive associations between TSH and ΣPBDE5, ΣOH-PBDE4, BDE-47, BDE-85, 5-OH-BDE47, and 4′-OH-BDE49; and an inverse association with BDE-207. Relationships with free and total T4 were weak and inconsistent. Our results indicate that PBDE exposures are elevated in pregnant women in California, and suggest a relationship with thyroid function. Further investigation is warranted to characterize the risks of PBDE exposures during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3191110  PMID: 21830753
11.  Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers: A Case Study for Using Biomonitoring Data to Address Risk Assessment Questions 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2006;114(11):1770-1775.
The use of biomonitoring data holds promise for characterizing exposure and informing risk assessment. Biomonitoring data have been used successfully to track population trends, identify susceptible populations, and provide indications of emerging environmental health issues. However, there remain challenges associated with interpreting biomonitoring data for risk assessment. An international biomonitoring workshop was convened in September 2004 to explore the use of biomonitoring data in the context of risk assessment. Six compounds were examined as case studies for this workshop, including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The PBDE case study was developed to provide an example of a persistent compound for which relatively few data are available for human exposure, biomonitoring, and health outcomes. PBDEs are used in hard plastics, electronics, textiles, and polyurethane foam products. The congener pattern downstream of production facilities often resembles the commercial mixture. However, because these compounds persist in the environment and in biota, the patterns of congeners evolve. PBDEs partition into body lipids, and direct measurement of bromodiphenyl ether congeners in biologic specimens provides a good marker of exposure. Data indicate significant variability (> 100-fold range) in lipid-adjusted levels for PBDEs in the general population. It is hypothesized that both exposure and pharmacokinetics may play a role in observed congener profiles. Significant gaps in our ability to interpret PBDE biomonitoring data to address public health and risk assessment questions include limited knowledge of environmental fate and transport of PBDE congeners, limited population-based data for adults, and lack of data for potentially vulnerable populations such as children.
PMCID: PMC1665443  PMID: 17107866
biomonitoring; exposure assessment; PBDE
12.  Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in maternal and fetal blood samples. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2003;111(9):1249-1252.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely used as flame retardants in consumer goods, such as plastics, electronics, textiles, and construction material. PBDEs have been found in human milk, fat, and blood samples. Rodent studies indicate that PBDEs may be detrimental to neurodevelopment, possibly by lowering thyroid hormone concentrations in blood. In the present study, we determined concentrations of PBDEs and thyroid hormones in human fetal and maternal serum. Patients presenting in labor to Indiana University and Wishard Memorial County hospitals in Indianapolis, who were older than 18 years, were recruited to participate. Twelve paired samples of maternal and cord blood were obtained and analyzed using gas chromatographic mass spectrometry; thyroid hormone concentrations were determined by radioimmunoassay. Six congeners of PBDE were measured in maternal and fetal serum samples. The concentrations of total PBDEs found in maternal sera ranged from 15 to 580 ng/g lipid, and the concentrations found in fetal samples ranged from 14 to 460 ng/g lipid. Individual fetal blood concentrations did not differ from the corresponding maternal concentrations, indicating that measurement of maternal PBDE blood levels is useful in predicting fetal exposure; similarly, other reports have shown a high correlation between PBDE in mother's milk and fetal exposure. In accord with reports on other biologic samples, the tetrabrominated PBDE congener BDE-47 accounted for 53-64% of total PBDEs in the serum. The concentrations of PBDEs found in maternal and fetal serum samples were 20-106-fold higher than the levels reported previously in a similar population of Swedish mothers and infants. In this small sample, there was no apparent correlation between serum PBDEs and thyroid hormone concentrations. Our study shows that human fetuses in the United States may be exposed to relatively high levels of PBDEs. Further investigation is required to determine if these levels are specific to central Indiana and to assess the toxic potential of these exposure levels.
PMCID: PMC1241582  PMID: 12842781
13.  QSPR study on the octanol/air partition coefficient of polybrominated diphenyl ethers by using molecular distance-edge vector index 
The quantitative structure property relationship (QSPR) for octanol/air partition coefficient (KOA) of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) was investigated. Molecular distance-edge vector (MDEV) index was used as the structural descriptor of PBDEs. The quantitative relationship between the MDEV index and the lgKOA of PBDEs was modeled by multivariate linear regression (MLR) and artificial neural network (ANN) respectively. Leave one out cross validation and external validation was carried out to assess the predictive ability of the developed models. The investigated 22 PBDEs were randomly split into two groups: Group I, which comprises 16 PBDEs, and Group II, which comprises 6 PBDEs.
The MLR model and the ANN model for predicting the KOA of PBDEs were established. For the MLR model, the prediction root mean square relative error (RMSRE) of leave one out cross validation and external validation is 2.82 and 2.95, respectively. For the L-ANN model, the prediction RMSRE of leave one out cross validation and external validation is 2.55 and 2.69, respectively.
The developed MLR and ANN model are practicable and easy-to-use for predicting the KOA of PBDEs. The MDEV index of PBDEs is shown to be quantitatively related to the KOA of PBDEs. MLR and ANN are both practicable for modeling the quantitative relationship between the MDEV index and the KOA of PBDEs. The prediction accuracy of the ANN model is slightly higher than that of the MLR model. The obtained ANN model shoud be a more promising model for studying the octanol/air partition behavior of PBDEs.
PMCID: PMC4057900  PMID: 24959199
QSPR; Polybrominated diphenyl ethers; Octanol/air partition coefficient; Molecular distance-edge vector index; Artificial neural network
14.  Measurement of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers and Metabolites in Mouse Plasma after Exposure to a Commercial Pentabromodiphenyl Ether Mixture 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2007;115(7):1052-1058.
Previous studies have shown that polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) behave as weak estrogens in animal and cell culture bioassays. In vivo metabolites of PBDEs are suspected to cause these effects.
To identify candidate metabolites, mouse plasma samples were collected after continuous oral and subcutaneous exposure to DE-71, a widely used commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether product, for 34 days.
Samples were extracted, separated into neutral and phenolic fractions, and analyzed by gas chromatographic mass spectrometry.
In the plasma samples of orally treated animals, 2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-hexabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-153) represented 52% of total measurable PBDEs, whereas it represented only 4.3% in the DE-71 mixture. This suggested that BDE-153 was more persistent than other congeners in mice. Several metabolites were detected and quantitated: 2,4-dibromophenol, 2,4,5-tribromophenol, and six hydroxylated PBDEs. The presence of the two phenols suggested cleavage of the ether bond of 2,2′,4,4′-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) and 2,2′,4,4′,5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99), respectively. The hydroxylated (HO)-PBDEs might come from hydroxylation or debromination/hydroxylation. Among the quantitated hydroxylated metabolites, the most abundant was 4-HO-2,2′,3,4′-tetra-BDE, which suggested that there was a bromine shift during the hydroxylation process. para-HO-PBDEs have been proposed to behave as endocrine disruptors.
There seem to be three metabolic pathways: cleavage of the diphenyl ether bond, hydroxylation, and debromination/hydroxylation. The cleavage of the diphenyl ether bond formed bromophenols, and the other two pathways formed hydroxylated PBDEs, of which para-HO-PBDEs are most likely formed from BDE-47. These metabolites may be the most thyroxine-like and/or estrogen-like congeners among the HO-PBDEs.
PMCID: PMC1913597  PMID: 17637922
BDE-153; bromophenols; DE-71; hydroxylated PBDEs; hydroxylation; polybrominated diphenyl ethers
15.  In vitro estrogenicity of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, hydroxylated PDBEs, and polybrominated bisphenol A compounds. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2001;109(4):399-407.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used in large quantities as additive flame retardants in plastics and textile materials. PBDEs are persistent compounds and have been detected in wildlife and in human adipose tissue and plasma samples. In this study, we investigated the (anti)estrogenic potencies of several PBDE congeners, three hydroxylated PBDEs (HO-PBDEs), and differently brominated bisphenol A compounds in three different cell line assays based on estrogen receptor (ER)-dependent luciferase reporter gene expression. In human T47D breast cancer cells stably transfected with an estrogen-responsive luciferase reporter gene construct (pEREtata-Luc), 11 PBDEs showed estrogenic potencies, with concentrations leading to 50% induction (EC(50)) varying from 2.5 to 7.3 microM. The luciferase induction of the most potent HO-PBDE [2-bromo-4-(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)phenol] exceeded that of estradiol (E(2)), though at concentrations 50,000 times higher. As expected, brominated bisphenol A compounds with the lowest degree of bromination showed highest estrogenic potencies (EC(50) values of 0.5 microM for 3-monobromobisphenol A). In an ER alpha-specific, stably transfected human embryonic kidney cell line (293-ER alpha-Luc), the HO-PBDE 4-(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)phenol was a highly potent estrogen with an EC(50) < 0.1 microM and a maximum 35- to 40-fold induction, which was similar to E(2). In an analogous ER beta-specific 293-ER betas-Luc cell line, the agonistic potency of the 4-(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)phenol was much lower (maximum 50% induction compared to E(2)), but EC(50) values were comparable. These results indicate that several pure PBDE congeners, but especially HO-PBDEs and brominated bisphenol A-analogs, are agonists of both ER alpha and ER beta receptors, thus stimulating ER-mediated luciferase induction in vitro. These data also suggest that in vivo metabolism of PBDEs may produce more potent pseudoestrogens.
PMCID: PMC1240281  PMID: 11335189
16.  Does flying present a threat of PBDE exposure? 
To investigate possible exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in US professional airline workers.
We recruited 30 healthy US professional airline workers who lived in the Dallas, TX area to test their blood PBDE levels. We examined the relationship between hours worked in an airplane to total PBDE blood levels.
Total PBDE blood levels from the 30 volunteers were unremarkable despite minor elevations of certain congeners in a few volunteers. No statistically significant correlations were noted between hours in airplanes in the past one or five years and levels of individual BDE congeners or total PBDEs.
We hypothesized that elevated PBDE levels in commercial aviation workers could be found associated with time spent in airliners. Our findings do not support such an association.
PMCID: PMC3064496  PMID: 21124237
17.  Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE) Flame Retardants and Thyroid Hormone during Pregnancy 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;118(10):1444-1449.
Human exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants has increased exponentially over the last three decades. Animal and human studies suggest that PBDEs may disrupt thyroid function. Although thyroid hormone (TH) of maternal origin plays an essential role in normal fetal brain development, there is a paucity of human data regarding associations between exposure to PBDEs and maternal TH levels during pregnancy.
Our goal was to determine whether PBDE serum concentrations are associated with TH levels in pregnant women.
We measured the concentration of 10 PBDE congeners, free thyroxine (T4), total T4, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in 270 pregnant women around the 27th week of gestation.
Serum concentrations of individual PBDE congeners with detection frequencies > 50% (BDEs 28, 47, 99, 100, and 153) and their sum (∑PBDEs) were inversely associated with TSH levels. Decreases in TSH ranged between 10.9% [95% confidence interval (CI), −20.6 to 0.0] and 18.7% (95% CI, −29.2 to −4.5) for every 10-fold increase in the concentration of individual congeners. Odds of subclinical hyperthyroidism (low TSH but normal T4) were also significantly elevated in participants in the highest quartile of ∑PBDEs and BDEs 100 and 153 relative to those in the first quartile. Associations between PBDEs and free and total T4 were not statistically significant. Results were not substantially altered after the removal of outliers and were independent of the method used to adjust for blood lipid levels and to express ∑PBDEs.
Results suggest that exposure to PBDEs is associated with lower TSH during pregnancy. Findings may have implications for maternal health and fetal development.
PMCID: PMC2957927  PMID: 20562054
endocrine disruption; flame retardants; persistent organic pollutants; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); pregnancy; thyroid hormone
18.  Associations between Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE) Flame Retardants, Phenolic Metabolites, and Thyroid Hormones during Pregnancy 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;119(10):1454-1459.
Background: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are chemical additives used as flame retardants in commercial products. PBDEs are bioaccumulative and persistent and have been linked to several adverse health outcomes.
Objectives: This study leverages an ongoing pregnancy cohort to measure PBDEs and PBDE metabolites in serum collected from an understudied population of pregnant women late in their third trimester. A secondary objective was to determine whether the PBDEs or their metabolites were associated with maternal thyroid hormones.
Methods: One hundred forty pregnant women > 34 weeks into their pregnancy were recruited into this study between 2008 and 2010. Blood samples were collected during a routine prenatal clinic visit. Serum was analyzed for a suite of PBDEs, three phenolic metabolites (i.e., containing an –OH moiety), and five thyroid hormones.
Results: PBDEs were detected in all samples and ranged from 3.6 to 694 ng/g lipid. Two hydroxylated BDE congeners (4´-OH-BDE 49 and 6-OH-BDE 47) were detected in > 67% of the samples. BDEs 47, 99, and 100 were significantly and positively associated with free and total thyroxine (T4) levels and with total triiodothyronine levels above the normal range. Associations between T4 and PBDEs remained after controlling for smoking status, maternal age, race, gestational age, and parity.
Conclusions: PBDEs and OH-BDEs are prevalent in this cohort, and levels are similar to those in the general population. Given their long half-lives, PBDEs may be affecting thyroid regulation throughout pregnancy. Further research is warranted to determine mechanisms through which PBDEs affect thyroid hormone levels in developing fetuses and newborn babies.
PMCID: PMC3230439  PMID: 21715241
flame retardants; OH-BDEs; PBDEs; pregnancy; thyroid hormones
19.  Predictors of serum concentrations of polybrominated flame retardants among healthy pregnant women in an urban environment: a cross-sectional study 
Environmental Health  2013;12:23.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of brominated flame retardants commonly used in a wide range of products. Prenatal exposure to PBDEs has been associated with adverse neurodevelopment. Our objective was to characterize predictors of exposure to PBDEs among a multi-ethnic, low-income cohort of pregnant women enrolled from highly urban communities in New York City between years 2009–2010.
During the first half of pregnancy we collected 316 maternal serum samples and administered an extensive questionnaire including items on demographics, diet and lifestyle. We measured 12 PBDE congeners in blood samples. Using bivariate and multivariate approaches, we regressed the most commonly detected PBDE congeners (PBDE-47, -99, -100 and -153) against potential demographic, dietary and lifestyle predictor variables.
At least one PBDE congener was detected in each serum sample. Our analyses demonstrate unique predictor patterns for PBDE-47, -99, -100 and -153 based on demographic, lifestyle and dietary characteristics of women. Higher education and increased use of household electronics were associated with higher levels of all 4 congeners. Six characteristics were associated with PBDE-153 serum concentrations, more than for any other congener. These include maternal education, household income, body mass index, solid dairy consumption, processed meat consumption and frequent use of household electronics.
PBDE exposure in this widespread in this cohort, though levels are lower than previous assessments of US pregnant women. Lower levels may be in response to legislation restricting the production, sale and use of these compounds. In our cohort, we did not observe any individual predictor or a consistent pattern of several predictors representing a significant source of PBDE exposure. These data suggest that legislation and policy may be more effective at reducing exposure than personal lifestyle modifications.
PMCID: PMC3605300  PMID: 23497089
PBDEs; Human exposure; Diet; Lifestyle; Pregnancy
20.  Fate of penta-brominated diphenyl ethers in soil 
Environmental science & technology  2006;40(21):6662-6667.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are potentially harmful and persistent environmental pollutants. Despite evidence that soils are a major sink for PBDEs, little is known regarding their behavior in this medium. An environmentally relevant level of a commercial penta-BDE mixture (75 μg kg-1) was added to topsoil and the extractability of three congeners (BDE 47, 99, and 100) was monitored over 10 weeks in planted and unplanted treatments. The extractability of each congener decreased rapidly in the experimental soil due largely to abiotic sorption to soil particles, which was demonstrated by low PBDE recovery from sterilized and dry soils. Monoculture plantings of zucchini and radish did not affect the recovery of PBDEs from soil. However, PBDE recovery from mixed species plantings was nearly 8 times higher than that of unplanted and monoculture treatments, indicating that interspecific plant interactions may enhance PBDE bioavailablity in soil. Evidence for competitive interactions between the two species was revealed by reduced shoot biomass of zucchini plants in mixed treatments relative to pots containing only zucchini. Both plant species accumulated PBDEs in root and shoot tissue (< 5 μg kg-1 plant tissue). PBDE uptake was higher in zucchini and translocation of PBDEs to zucchini shoots was congener-specific. Our results suggest that although abiotic sorption may limit the potential for human exposure to PBDEs in soil, plants may increase the exposure risk by taking up and translocating PBDEs into aboveground tissues and by enhancing bioavailability in soil.
PMCID: PMC2631386  PMID: 17144293
brominated flame retardants; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); phytoremediation; bioavailability; zucchini; radish; aging
21.  Children Show Highest Levels of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in a California Family of Four: A Case Study 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2006;114(10):1581-1584.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a major class of flame retardants, are ubiquitous environmental contaminants with particularly high concentrations in humans from the United States. This study is a first attempt to report and compare PBDE concentrations in blood drawn from a family. Serum samples from family members collected at two sampling occasions 90 days apart were analyzed for PBDE congeners. Concentrations of the lower-brominated PBDEs were similar at the two sampling times for each family member, with children’s levels 2- to 5-fold higher than those of their parents. Concentrations of, for example, 2,2′,4,4′-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) varied from 32 ng/g lipid weight (lw) in the father to 60, 137, and 245 ng/g lw in the mother, child, and toddler, respectively. Decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) concentrations differed significantly between the two samplings. September concentrations in the father, mother, child, and toddler were 23, 14, 143, and 233 ng/g lw, respectively. December concentrations (duplicate results from the laboratory) were 2 and 3, 4 and 4, 9 and 12, and 19 and 26 ng/g lw, respectively. Parents’ ∑PBDE concentrations approached U.S. median concentrations, with children’s concentrations near the maximum (top 5%) found in U.S. adults. The youngest child had the highest concentrations of all PBDE congeners, suggesting that younger children are more exposed to PBDEs than are adults. Our estimates indicate that house dust contributes to children’s higher PBDE levels. BDE-209 levels for all family members were 10-fold lower at the second sampling. The short half-life of BDE-209 (15 days) indicates that BDE-209 levels can decrease rapidly in response to decreased exposures. This case study suggests that children are at higher risk for PBDE exposures and, accordingly, face higher risks of PBDE-related health effects than adults.
PMCID: PMC1626410  PMID: 17035146
BDE-209; brominated flame retardants; children; decaBDE; house dust; human exposure; PBDE; polybrominated diphenyl ethers
22.  A Theoretical Study on Reductive Debromination of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers 
Recent progress has been made in the reductive debromination of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) by nanoscale zero-valent iron (nZVI). To better understand the mechanism of this reaction, seven selected BDE congeners and their anions were investigated at the density functional theory (DFT) level using four different methods, including B3LYP/6-31G(d), B3LYP/6-31+G(d), B3LYP/6-31G(d,p) and B3LYP/6-311G(d,p). The cleaved C–Br bonds observed in the equilibrium structures of anionic PBDEs were adopted as the probe of the susceptible debromination position of PBDEs in the presence of nZVI, and the proposed major reaction pathways based on our calculations can satisfactorily conform to the reported experimental results. The debromination preference is theoretically evaluated as meta-Br > ortho-Br > para-Br. In addition, both the calculated frontier orbital energies and adiabatic electronic affinities were found to be highly related to their experimental reductive debromination rate constants. The highest linear regression coefficient was observed in the case using the energy of lowest unoccupied molecular orbital as the molecular descriptor obtained from B3LYP/6-31G(d) (R2 = 0.961, n = 7) or B3LYP/6-31G(d,p) (R2 = 0.961, n = 7). The results clearly showed the evidence of an electron transfer mechanism associated with this reductive debromination reaction.
PMCID: PMC3430299  PMID: 22942768
polybrominated diphenyl ethers; reductive debromination; radical anion; density functional theory; electron transfer
23.  Neurobehavioral function and low-level exposure to brominated flame retardants in adolescents: a cross-sectional study 
Environmental Health  2012;11:86.
Animal and in vitro studies demonstrated a neurotoxic potential of brominated flame retardants, a group of chemicals used in many household and commercial products to prevent fire. Although the first reports of detrimental neurobehavioral effects in rodents appeared more than ten years ago, human data are sparse.
As a part of a biomonitoring program for environmental health surveillance in Flanders, Belgium, we assessed the neurobehavioral function with the Neurobehavioral Evaluation System (NES-3), and collected blood samples in a group of high school students. Cross-sectional data on 515 adolescents (13.6-17 years of age) was available for the analysis. Multiple regression models accounting for potential confounders were used to investigate the associations between biomarkers of internal exposure to brominated flame retardants [serum levels of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congeners 47, 99, 100, 153, 209, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA)] and cognitive performance. In addition, we investigated the association between brominated flame retardants and serum levels of FT3, FT4, and TSH.
A two-fold increase of the sum of serum PBDE’s was associated with a decrease of the number of taps with the preferred-hand in the Finger Tapping test by 5.31 (95% CI: 0.56 to 10.05, p = 0.029). The effects of the individual PBDE congeners on the motor speed were consistent. Serum levels above the level of quantification were associated with an average decrease of FT3 level by 0.18 pg/mL (95% CI: 0.03 to 0.34, p = 0.020) for PBDE-99 and by 0.15 pg/mL (95% CI: 0.004 to 0.29, p = 0.045) for PBDE-100, compared with concentrations below the level of quantification. PBDE-47 level above the level of quantification was associated with an average increase of TSH levels by 10.1% (95% CI: 0.8% to 20.2%, p = 0.033), compared with concentrations below the level of quantification. We did not observe effects of PBDE’s on neurobehavioral domains other than the motor function. HBCD and TBBPA did not show consistent associations with performance in the neurobehavioral tests.
This study is one of few studies and so far the largest one investigating the neurobehavioral effects of brominated flame retardants in humans. Consistently with experimental animal data, PBDE exposure was associated with changes in the motor function and the serum levels of the thyroid hormones.
PMCID: PMC3519795  PMID: 23151181
Brominated flame retardants; PBDE; TBBPA; HBCD; Neurotoxicity; Neurobehavioral function; Cognitive function; Cognition; Adolescents
24.  Individual Characteristics Associated with PBDE Levels in U.S. Human Milk Samples 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;118(1):155-160.
Reported polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) concentrations in human samples in the United States have been higher than in Europe and Asia. Little is known about factors that contribute to individual variability in body burden.
In this large study we measured PBDE concentrations in human milk from the United States during 2004–2006. We assessed characteristics associated with concentrations in milk and change in milk concentration between 3 and 12 months postpartum.
We analyzed 303 milk samples obtained 3 months postpartum for PBDEs. A second sample was analyzed for 83 women still lactating 12 months postpartum. PBDE concentrations in milk and variability by individual characteristics such as age, parity, and prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) were evaluated using generalized linear models.
PBDE congeners BDEs 28, 47, 99, 100, and 153 were detected in > 70% of samples. BDE-47 concentrations were the highest, ranging from below the limit of detection to 1,430 ng/g lipid, with a median of 28 ng/g lipid. Concentrations of most individual PBDE congeners and the sum of BDEs 28, 47, 99, 100, and 153 (∑PBDE) were lower among mothers > 34 years of age compared with those 25–29 years of age and higher among mothers with high compared with normal BMI, after adjustment for other covariates. Parity was not associated with PBDE concentration. The change in ∑PBDE concentration in milk between 3 and 12 months postpartum was highly variable (median increase, 14%; interquartile range, −26% to 50%).
PBDEs were detected in nearly all human milk samples, varying by maternal weight and age and over the course of breast-feeding.
PMCID: PMC2831961  PMID: 20056574
brominated flame retardants; environment; epidemiology; human milk; infant; lactation; PBDE; persistent pollutants; polybrominated diphenyl ethers; pregnancy
25.  Flame retardant exposure: polybrominated diphenyl ethers in blood from Swedish workers. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1999;107(8):643-648.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used as additives in polymers and textiles to prohibit the development of fires. Because of the production and use of PBDEs, their lipophilic characteristics, and persistence, these compounds have become ubiquitous environmental contaminants. The aim of the present study was to determine potential exposures of PBDEs to clerks working full-time at computer screens and personnel at an electronics-dismantling plant, with hospital cleaners as a control group. Five PBDE congeners--2,2',4,4'-tetraBDE; 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexaBDE; 2,2',4,4',5, 6'-hexaBDE; 2,2',3,4,4',5',6-heptaBDE; and decaBDE--were quantified in blood serum from all three categories of workers. Subjects working at the dismantling plant showed significantly higher levels of all PBDE congeners in their serum as compared to the control group. Decabromodiphenyl ether is present in concentrations of 5 pmol/g lipid weight (lw) in the personnel dismantling electronics; these concentrations are comparable to the concentrations of 2,2',4, 4'-tetraBDE. The latter compound was the dominating PBDE congener in the clerks and cleaners. The major compound in personnel at the dismantling plant was 2,2',3,4,4',5',6-heptaBDE. Concentrations of this PBDE congener are almost twice as high as for 2,2',4, 4'-tetraBDE in these workers and seventy times the level of this heptaBDE in cleaners. The total median PBDE concentrations in the serum from workers at the electronics-dismantling plant, clerks, and cleaners were 37, 7.3, and 5.4 pmol/g lw, respectively. The results show that decabromodiphenyl ether is bioavailable and that occupational exposure to PBDEs occurs at the electronics-dismantling plant.
PMCID: PMC1566483  PMID: 10417362

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