Emerging and legacy brominated flame retardants in the breast milk of first time Irish mothers suggest positive response to restrictions on use of HBCDD and Penta- and Octa-BDE formulations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Nina Wemken
  • Claire Cellarius
  • Kathy Cleere
  • John Morrison
  • Sean Daly
  • Christina Tlustos
  • Marie Coggins

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • National University of Ireland
  • University Hospital Galway
  • Coombe Women's & Infants University Hospital
  • Food Safety Authority of Ireland


The brominated flame retardants (BFRs) hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD), eight polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) were measured in 16 pools of human milk from Ireland. Concentrations of BDEs-47, -99, −100, −153, and HBCDD were significantly lower (p < 0.05) than those in Irish human milk collected in 2011. In contrast, concentrations of BDE-209 in our study exceeded those in 2011, and while decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) was not detected in 2011 it was detected in 3 of our samples. This suggests increased use of DBDPE and that while restrictions on the Penta- and Octa-BDE formulations are reducing human exposure, those on Deca-BDE use have yet to reduce body burdens. Estimated exposures for nursing infants to all target BFRs do not suggest a health concern. A one compartment pharmacokinetic model was used to predict body burdens arising from BFR intakes via air, dust and diet. While for most targeted BFRs, predicted and observed body burdens derived from our human milk data compared reasonably well; predicted BDE-209 and DBDPE values were substantially lower than observed. This suggests exposure pathways not included in the model like dermal uptake from fabrics may be important, and highlights knowledge gaps about the human half-lives and bioavailability of these contaminants.


Original languageEnglish
Article number108805
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research
Early online date7 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • BFRs, DBDPE, Human biomonitoring, Temporal trends