Date of Award

Fall 2008

Project Type


Program or Major

Animal and Nutritional Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Gale B Carey


Breast milk is a valuable biological specimen for biomonitoring lipid-soluble polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The goal of this project was to determine the levels of PBDEs in breast milk of lactating women from the Seacoast region of New Hampshire and to examine potential relationships between PBDE levels in breast milk and stage of lactation, maternal characteristics, living environment and dietary intake. Forty women, ages 22 to 40, provided up to three breast milk samples at the end of their first, second and third month of breastfeeding for evaluation of day-to-day and month-to-month variation in PBDE levels. Participants were asked to complete four questionnaires, which provided maternal, living environment, and diet information. The sum of PBDE (SigmaPBDE) congeners found in breast milk was defined as: BDE-28/33, 47, 85, 99, 100, 153, 154, and 183. The SigmaPBDE concentrations in breast milk over the three-month collection period ranged from 6.5 to 166.7 ng/g lipid. The median for the three-month period was 29.7 ng/g. BDE-47 was the predominant congener; however, BDE-153 predominated in 20% of the participants' samples from each month. Day-to-day variation in SigmaPBDEs was negligible; there was no significant difference in mean PBDE levels from month-to-month. Regression analyses revealed relationships between log-transformed PBDE levels in breast milk and questionnaire data. Positive associations were seen between BDE-153 and age (r = 0.36 p = 0.02), saturated fat consumption (r = 0.31 p = 0.05), and the home model (r = 0.51 p = 0.004). There was a negative association between PBDE levels (Sigma and BDE-47) and fruit consumption (r = 0.36 p = 0.02, SigmaPBDE). Our results indicate that PBDE levels in breast milk from New Hampshire are within the range that has been reported in the U.S., and that levels are stable during the first three-months of lactation. Our findings revealed a higher predominance pattern with BDE-153 compared to other studies, and indicate that PBDE levels are influenced by age, diet, and the home environment.