Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels in livers of U.S. human fetuses and newborns

Arnold Schecter, Sarah Johnson-Welch, Kuang Chi Tung, T. Robert Harris, Olaf Päpke, Robin Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) brominated flame retardants have recently been found to contaminate humans in the United States and other countries. U.S. human breast milk and blood levels of PBDEs are presently the highest in the world. U.S. cord blood samples tested positive for PBDEs, but until now there have been no peer-reviewed published data concerning levels of PBDEs in human tissue prior to and immediately after birth. Liver tissues were obtained from 4 stillborn fetuses and 7 liveborn infants, ranging from 20.5 to 39 wk gestational age; only 2 of the liveborn infants lived longer than 4 h and none were formula-fed or nursed, so tissue levels reflect intrauterine PBDE intake only. All samples were contaminated with PBDEs. Levels varied from 4 to 98 ppb, lipid. The mean level was 23.1 and the median 15.2 ppb, lipid. PBDE levels did not increase with gestational age. These data document the transfer of PBDEs from maternal to fetal tissue. PBDE concentrations are somewhat lower than those reported in adult blood or breast milk. The health consequences of prenatal contamination are not clear at present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A: Current Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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