2013 Environment and Health - Basel
ASSESSING EXPOSURES TO PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS IN A GROUP OF CALIFORNIA FIREFIGHTERS
Background.Firefighters are likely to be exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs), while responding to structural, vehicular or wildland fires or to industrial accidents and chemical spills. While previous studies have measured chemicals at fire sites, few have evaluated serum concentrations of POPs in firefighters. Aim. This pilot biomonitoring study assessed body burdens of selected POPs in a group of California firefighters and tested protocols that could be used in larger occupational biomonitoring studies.
Methods. In 2010-11we recruited, interviewed and collected blood samples from 101 Southern California firefighters. Serum was separated and analyzed for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) by gas chromatography/high resolution mass spectrometry using isotope dilution. Questionnaire data were analyzed using SAS. Results. All chemical classes were detected in all samples. Median concentrations (all in ng/g lipid) ranged from 1-182 for OCPs; 1-15 for PCBs and 1-30 for PBDEs. Most samples (75% and 90%, respectively) exceeded the 50th percentile of NHANES (2003-04) for PBDE-47 and PBDE-153, and 4% exceeded the 95th percentile for both. Correlations between PCBs and OCPs were moderate while PBDEs showed low and statistically non-significant correlations with PCBs or OCPs, pointing to non-dietary exposure routes for PBDEs. PCB and OCP concentrations were highest among older participants, while concentrations of almost all PBDEs were highest in those with 10-20 years of firefighting experience. Preliminary analyses showed certain practices such as use/storage of protective equipment and duty assignments to be associated with elevated serum PBDEs.
Conclusions. In this pilot study PBDE concentrations in firefighters’ serum were the highest yet measured in California adults, known for high levels of flame retardants.