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Issue 4, 2001
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Brominated flame retardants in plasma samples from three different occupational groups in Norway

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Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are widely used in plastics, textile coatings, electrical appliances and printed circuit boards to prohibit the development of fires. In order to investigate how exposure to BFRs is related to specific occupations, samples were obtained from Norwegian individuals working at an electronics dismantling facility, in the production of printed circuit boards, or as laboratory personnel. Nine BFRs were quantified in the plasma samples: 2,4,4′-tribromodiphenyl ether (BDE-28), 2,2′,4,4′-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47), 2,2′,4,4′,5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99), 2,2′,4,4′,6-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-100), 2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-hexabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-153), 2,2′,4,4′,5,6′-hexabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-154), 2,2′,3,4,4′,5′,6-heptabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-183), 2,4,6-tribromophenol (TriBP) and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBP-A). The BFRs were extracted from plasma using solid-phase extraction (SPE). The plasma lipids were decomposed by treatment with concentrated sulfuric acid directly on the SPE column, prior to the elution of the BFRs. Following diazomethane derivatization, the samples were analysed by gas chromatography-electron capture mass spectrometry. The subjects working at the electronics dismantling plant had significantly higher plasma levels of TBBP-A and BDE-153 compared to the other groups, and the heptabrominated congener BDE-183 was only detected in plasma from this group. TriBP was generally the most abundant BFR present, and the plasma concentrations were in the range 0.17–81 ng g−1 lipids. BDE-47 was the dominant BDE congener in all the individual samples and the levels were in the range 0.43–14.6 ng g−1 lipids. The total amounts of the seven BDEs were 8.8, 3.9 and 3.0 ng g−1 lipids for the group of electronics dismantlers, circuit board producers and laboratory personnel, respectively. Generally, large variations in the individual concentration levels were found within the groups, especially in the group of electronics dismantlers, where the relative standard deviations for BDE concentrations were in the range 23–164%. The levels of BFRs were not correlated to age or the level of 2,2′,4,4′,5,5′-hexachlorobiphenyl (CB-153). The present work indicates that the population in Norway is exposed to several BFRs, probably with food as a major source. The elevated level of higher brominated BDEs and TBBP-A in the plasma from the workers at the dismantling plant suggests an additional occupational exposure for these individuals. Thus, human exposure to BFRs seems to originate from a combination of different sources; however, further studies investigating plasma samples from a larger number of individuals are necessary for a more complete assessment of human exposure pathways to these environmental contaminants.

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Publication details

The article was received on 16 May 2001, accepted on 22 Jun 2001 and first published on 12 Jul 2001

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B104304H
Citation: J. Environ. Monit., 2001,3, 366-370
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    Brominated flame retardants in plasma samples from three different occupational groups in Norway

    C. Thomsen, E. Lundanes and G. Becher, J. Environ. Monit., 2001, 3, 366
    DOI: 10.1039/B104304H

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