Brominated flame retardants

Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) such as polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecane isomers (HBCD) are widespread occurring in the environment and belong to the group of persistent organic pollutants (POPs): BFRs show persistence in the environment like their polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins/dibenzofurans (PCDDs/PCDFs) analogues. BFRs are suspects for various toxic effects, including endocrine disruption which might be enhanced following in vivo hydroxylation. The EFSA has drafted an opinion on PCBs [8] and advice on relevant compounds in the BFR group. It can be expected that BFRs occur in the food chain accompanied by several other POPs in different concentrations (PCBs, PCDD/PCDF, PAH, chlorinated pesticides).

The complex mixture thus obtained requires analysis methods having a huge separation and identification power. Comprehensive gas chromatography combined with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC x GC/TOFMS) is an expensive but comprehensive solution to the analysis of BFRs and related substances in the food chain [9,10]. Contrary to conventional techniques, implementation of a GC x GC/TOFMS multi-analyte/multi-class strategy in food safety control seems feasible, provided that an adequate solution is found for the automated data interpretation challenge related to the very large four-dimensional datasets. Apart from that, the development of bioactivity-based screening approaches remains challenging since they can not only provide an additional screening tool, but even disclose the presence of unknown bioactive pollutants. The DR-CALUX®, an aryl hydrocarbon receptor-based transcription activation bioassay, is being used for dioxin screening in several laboratories [11]. Also a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor assay for measurement of the thyroid disrupting activity of hydroxylated halogenated aromatic pollutants has been described based on binding with specific human transport proteins [12]. A real comprehensive exposure assessment would integrate the data from these entirely different but highly complementary approaches.

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