Serum levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in foam recyclers and carpet installers working in the united states

Heather M. Stapleton, Andreas S.J.Ödin, Richard S. Jones, Sara Niehüser, Yalin Zhang, Donald G. Patterson

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84 Scopus citations


Increased exposure to the flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) may be expected to occur during the recycling of polyurethane foam containing these chemicals. To date, no studies in the United States have investigated occupational exposure to these flame retardants during recycling processes. The objective of the present study was to determine if individuals working in foam recycling facilities, and/or carpet installers who may install carpet padding manufactured from recycled foam, possess significantly higher PBDE serum levels relative to that of the general U.S. population. As a control group, serum was collected from four spouses and one clerical worker. In addition, levels in workers were also compared to the recently published national health and nutrition examination survey (NHANES) data Sci on PBDEs in the general U.S. population. Serum samples were collected in duplicate and analyzed by two different laboratories as quality control. Total PBDE levels were found to be significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the individuals recycling foam and installing carpet (n = 15) relative to the control group (n = 5). Median Σ PBDE levels in the foam recyclers, carpet layers, and control group were 160, 178, and 19 ng/g lipid, respectively. In contrast, concentrations of a polybrominated biphenyl (BB-153) and a polychlorinated biphenyl (CB-153) were equivalent among all groups tested. The PBDE congeners BDE-47, 99, 100, and 153 contributed 90% of the Σ PBDE concentration in serum and no differences in congener patterns were apparent among the different groups. Relative to concentrations measured in the NHANES, foam recyclers and carpet layers have body burdens that are an order of magnitude higher. These data suggest individuals recycling foam-containing products, and/or using products manufactured from recycled foam (i.e., carpet padding), have higher body burdens of PBDEs, and thus may be at higher risk from adverse health effects associated with brominated flame retardant exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3453-3458
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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