Assessment of Perinatal PBDE Exposure and Related Child Behavioral and Cognitive Developmental Effects

EPA Grant Number: R832736
Title: Assessment of Perinatal PBDE Exposure and Related Child Behavioral and Cognitive Developmental Effects
Investigators: Daniels, J L , Savitz, David A. , Herring, Amy H. , Goldman, B
Current Investigators: Daniels, J L , Savitz, David A. , Herring, Amy H. , Siega-Riz, Anna Maria , Goldman, B , Evenson, Kelly
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: March 15, 2006 through March 14, 2009 (Extended to March 14, 2011)
Project Amount: $749,990
RFA: Early Indicators of Environmentally Induced Disease (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category:


Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels in the environment have dramatically increased over the past two decades, as have levels in human blood and milk samples.  These chemicals are used as flame retardants in electronic equipment, carpet, and the polyurethane foam used in furniture.  There are many different PBDE congeners.  The lower-brominated congeners are most persistent in the environment and most often measured in human tissues.  They include BDE-47, -99, -100, and -153.  PBDEs are rather ubiquitous and bioaccumulate in the food chain, however the most prominent sources for human exposure remain unclear.  Rodent studies have suggested that low-level exposure to these chemicals during the neonatal period may adversely affect behavior, learning, and memory.  To date, no studies of the effects of PBDEs on developing humans have been reported.  This study of 500 maternal-infant pairs in North Carolina evaluates 1) the levels of PBDEs in maternal milk at 3 and 12 months postpartum, 2) the relationship between the household environment and PBDE levels in household dust and maternal milk, and 3) the relation between household and maternal milk PBDE levels and children’s growth and neurodevelopment through age 2 years. 


Participating children will be followed from birth to 24 months of age to assess their exposure to PBDEs through breast milk, their own diet, and their physical environment, as well as their cognitive and behavioral development.  Participants of this study will be children born to participants of two existing studies: the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition (PIN) Study follows women through the end of pregnancy, then the PIN Postpartum Study continues to follow them through the first year postpartum.  Together these two integrated studies collect considerable information on the mothers during pregnancy, including diet, stress, psychosocial health, infection, weight status, physical activity, and blood samples.  We will conduct developmental assessments of the children at 3, 12, and 24 months of age in their home, collects milk sample from nursing mothers, assess the infant’s diet, and inventory sources for PBDE exposure in the home.  PBDEs will be measured in all milk samples, as well as dust samples taken from the homes from 75 homes, by an established laboratory with extensive experience measuring these compounds. 

Expected Results:

We will assess correlation in the classification of PBDE exposure between the home exposure assessment, levels in milk, and levels in house dust.  We will also identify factors in the home and diet that predict maternal PBDE levels in milk.  We will estimate the change in cognitive and behavioral developmental scores relative to total PBDE level and PBDE composition using random effects models and generalized estimating equations, accounting for the correlation in development over time and adjusting for important confounding factors.  This study will efficiently estimate contemporary PBDE levels from the largest human sample to date in North America, correlate household sources of exposure with levels measured in dust and in humans, and provide the first results of an investigation of the effects of PBDEs on early human development.  These data will provide information about potential risks to development associated with exposure to PBDEs.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 6 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

epidemiology, environmental health, exposure assessment, longitudinal, human milk biomarkers,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Health Risk Assessment, Biochemistry, Children's Health, Environmental Policy, Risk Assessment, behavioral effects, childhood learning, developmental neurotoxicity, flame retardants, neurodevelopment, PBDE, perinatal exposure, Human Health Risk Assessment, assessment of exposure, cognitive development, developmental disorders

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009
  • Final