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Your Environment. Your Health.

Faster Measurements of Brominated Flame Retardants

James Olson, Ph.D., Diana Aga, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Buffalo
NIEHS Grant R21ES021554

NIEHS grantees have developed a new method that can measure polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants and their analogs in human samples in a single 25-minute mass spectrometry analysis. The one-shot analysis technique would be cost-effective for large-scale studies examining the adverse health effects and accumulation patterns of brominated flame retardants.

PBDEs flame retardants are commonly found in the environment and also bioaccumulate in humans. The hydroxylated (OH-BDE) and methoxylated (MeO-BDE) analogs of PBDEs — which naturally occur in the environment or can result from biological transformation of manmade PBDEs — are also concerning because they accumulate in wildlife and humans. Typically, testing for flame retardants in human samples requires conversion of OH-BDEs into the more easily detectable MeO-BDEs. However, each compound must be measured separately, resulting in a series of time-consuming, expensive tests. To solve this problem, the researchers converted OH-BDEs into a similar, but alternate compound, allowing 12 PBDEs, 12 OH-BDE, and 13 MeO-BDEs to be analyzed at once using gas chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry.

The researchers tested the method by measuring PBDEs and their analogs in paired human breast milk and serum samples from four people. Although the sample number was limited, the results showed different distribution profiles in serum and breast milk. The average concentrations of total PBDEs, OH-BDEs, and MeO-BDEs in breast milk were 59, 2.2, and 0.57 nanograms per gram of lipid, respectively. For serum, average concentrations were 79, 38, and 0.96 nanograms per gram of lipid, respectively.

Citation: Butryn DM, Gross MS, Chi LH, Schecter A, Olson JR, Aga DS. 2015. "One-shot" analysis of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and their hydroxylated and methoxylated analogs in human breast milk and serum using gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Anal Chim Acta 892:140-147.