Background: Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is a brominated flame retardant used in polystyrene foams in thermal insulation and electrical equipment. The HBCD commercial mixture consists mainly of α, β, and γ stereoisomers. Health concerns of HBCD exposure include alterations in immune and reproductive systems, neurotoxic effects, and endocrine disruption. Previously, stereoisomer specific levels of HBCD have not been measured in U.S. food.
Objectives: HBCD stereoisomer levels were measured in U.S. foods from Dallas, Texas supermarkets.
Methods: Convenience samples of commonly consumed foods were purchased from Dallas, Texas supermarkets in 2009-2010. Food samples included a wide variety of lipid rich foods: peanut butter, poultry, fish and beef. Thirty-six individual food samples were collected in 2010 and analyzed for α, β, and γ-HBCD stereoisomers using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Ten pooled food samples previously collected in 2009 for a study of “total HBCD” levels using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), were re-analyzed for α, β, and γ –HBCD stereoisomers using LC-MS/MS.
Results: Of the 36 measured individual foods, fifteen had detectable levels of HBCD (42%). Median (ranges) of α and γ HBCD concentrations were 0.003 (<0.005 – 1.307) and 0.005 (<0.010 – 0.143) ng/g wet weight (ww), respectively; β-HBCD was present in 3 samples with a median (range) of 0.003 (<0.005 – 0.019) ng/g ww. Median levels (range) for α, β, and γ-HBCD, in pooled samples were 0.077 (0.010 – 0.310), 0.008 (<0.002 – 0.070), and 0.024 (0.012 – 0.170) ng/g ww, respectively.
Conclusions: α -HBCD was detected most frequently and at highest concentrations, followed by γ, and then β, in food samples from Dallas, Texas. Food may be a substantial contributor to the elevated α-HBCD levels observed in humans. These data suggest that larger and more representative sampling should be conducted.