United States                  Office of Water
                        Environmental Protection Agency        4305T
EPA-820-F-13-003
 September 2013
                            Contaminants of  Emerging
                                 Concern (CECs)  in  Fish:
                          Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers  (PBDEs)
About PBDEs

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), commonly referred to as brominated flame retardants, are
a group of chemical compounds that include 209 congeners in ten bromination levels (mono through
deca). They are widely used as flame retardants in the manufacture of a number of products, including
textiles, polyurethane upholstery foams, and plastic components of electronic equipment. Commercial
production of PBDEs began in the 1970s and researchers first reported their presence in the environment
in the 1980s. Recent studies indicate that PBDEs are transported worldwide passively by air and actively
through water sources, and they can occur in locations as remote as the arctic environment. Monitoring
studies to date document their presence in air, water, soil, sediment, and biota (including humans).
About 30 congeners are commonly detected in environmental samples.
 Why Is Studying PBDEs in Fish Important?
 In the past decade, PBDEs have emerged as contaminants of concern because they are widely distributed and
 persistent in the environment. A number of studies conducted in the U.S. and Europe since 2000 confirm that
 PBDEs biomagnify in the food chain and accumulate in fish and human tissue. PBDEs have been associated
 primarily with endocrine disruption and neurodevelopmental toxicity.

 How Is EPA Responding?
 Most of the early studies of PBDEs in U.S. fish focused on a particular waterbody or on the occurrence of a particular
 group of PBDE congeners. In 2003, the EPA identified the need for a more comprehensive characterization of
 PBDE contamination in U.S. fish and conducted a series of national- and regional-scale studies to evaluate the
 extent of PBDE contamination in freshwater fish. The purpose of the studies
 was to develop national or regional estimates of the median concentrations
 of PBDEs in fish from various surface waters,  including lakes, reservoirs,
 and rivers. The statistical design of the studies also allowed for estimation
 of the percentage of lakes and reservoirs or river miles  with fish tissue
 concentrations above a specified human health  threshold.  EPA established
 partnerships to conduct the following studies:
  The National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue (1998-
   2009)
  National Rivers and Streams Assessment (2008-2014)
  National Coastal Condition Assessment, Great Lakes Human Health Fish
   Tissue Study (2010-2014)

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      The National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue
                            (National Lake Fish Tissue Study)
           First statistically based national assessment of contaminants in fish
                               from U.S. lakes and reservoirs

  National Lake Fish Tissue Study Design
Design Elements
Number of Sites
Sampling Period
Fish Samples/Site
Fish Tissue Sample
Chemical Analysis
Total Samples Analyzed
PBDEs
Predators
166
2003
1
Fillets
46 congeners
160
Bottom
Dwellers
166
2003
1
Whole bodies
46 congeners
131
Other Chemicals
Predators
500
2000-2003
1
Fillets
Various*
486
Bottom
Dwellers
500
2000-2003
1
Whole bodies
Various*
395
    Additional Chemicals: Hg, As, PCBs (209 congeners), dioxins/furans (17), pesticides (46), and semi-volatile organic compounds (40)
PBDE Results
 The three most prevalent PBDE congeners in both
  predator fillet and bottom-dweller whole-body
  samples are BDE-47, BDE-99, and BDE-100.
 Due to higher lipid content, measured concentrations <
  of individual PBDE congeners are consistently higher
  in whole-body samples than in fillet samples; the
  maximum measured concentration for fillet samples
  is 38 ppb and 125 ppb for whole-body samples.
      Contributions of Individual PBDEs to Total PBDE
          Concentrations in Fish Fillet Samples
                                  NLFTS Fish Sampling Locations (500)
                         -BDE-153
                               Other
      BDE-47 [

      BDE-100

      BDE-99

      BDE-49

      BDE-154

     BDE-28+33

      BDE-153

       Other
BDE-49
      Contributions of Individual PBDEs to Total PBDE
       Concentrations in Whole-Body Fish Samples
                         -BDE-153
                               Other
      BDE-47 [

      BDE-100

      BDE-99

      BDE-49

      BDE-154

     BDE-28+33

      BDE-153

       Other
                                 Publications
                                  PBDE Results Article (in press; Environmental
                                   Monitoring and Assessment Journal; projected
                                   publication in 2013)
                                  National Lake Fish Tissue Study Final Report
                                   (September 2009)
                                  Study Design and Legacy Contaminant Results
                                   Articles (Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
                                   Journal, 2009)
                                  Collaborators with EPA
                                   52 state agencies
                                   3 tribal agencies
                                   2 other federal agencies

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             National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA)
                CEC and Legacy Fish Tissue Contamination Studies
  First statistically based national assessment of contaminants in fish from U.S. rivers
                NRSA Fish Sampling Locations (542)
           Sites
             Urban Rivers (164)
             Non-urban Rivers (378)
Study Design
 542 randomly selected river segments sampled in
  the lower 48 states during 2008 and 2009
 Five fish collected per site to form one composite
  sample for fillet analysis because people typically
  consume fillets
 Fillets analyzed for 8 PBDE congeners
 Fillet results for other CECs (PFCs and PPCPs) from
  164 urban river sites
 Additional fillet results for legacy contaminants
  (mercury, selenium, PCBs, and pesticides) from the
  full set of 542 river sites sampled for fish
                           Complete
                           Statistical
                           Analysis of
                           PBDE Data
Future PBDE
Milestones
                            -L
2014
                   Conduct QA
                    Review of
                    PBDE Data
     Report
      PBDE
     Results

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                  National Coastal Condition Assessment
                  Great Lakes Human Health Fish Tissue Study
          First statistically based assessment of chemicals in Great Lakes fish
                             relevant to human health
             NCCA Great Lakes Human Health Fish Tissue Study
                          Sampling Locations (157)
Study Design

 157 randomly selected nearshore sites sampled in
  the five Great Lakes (about 30 sites per lake) during
  2010

 One fish sample collected per site for fillet analysis

 Fillets analyzed for 52 PBDE congeners

 Fillet results for other CECs (PFCs), mercury, and
  PCBs

 First broad assessment of fatty acids in Great
  Lakes fish
                Complete
                Statistical
               Analysis of
                PBDE Data
                  I
 Future PBDE
 Milestones
                                Report
                                PBDE
                                Results
                            For additional information contact:
                                   Leanne Stahl at stahl.leanne@epa.gov
                         or access http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishstudies/

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