Meaty diet found to be heavier in flame retardant PBDEs

Free to be me and PBDE: Humans and many animals have become cocktails of chemicals, with a lifetime’s “body burden” acquired from skin contact, breathing, drinking, and eating industrial materials. A newly released paper by researchers at Boston University investigates the role of diet in the body burden of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs are used as flame retardants in a wide variety of consumer products and have been shown to cause endocrine disruption and other negative health effects on laboratory animals; some studies also show ill effects on humans. The researchers analyzed serum samples from participants in a national health survey for PBDEs and found that vegetarians had between 23% and 27% lower levels of PBDEs than omnivores. Among omnivores, they found that PBDE levels correlated with consumption of chicken and red meat, but not dairy or fish, leading to a conclusion that “intake of contaminated poultry and red meat contribute significantly to PDBE body burden in the United States.” Although the results were adjusted for variables such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, income, and BMI, it doesn’t appear that the survey asks about the source of the food, and whether the meat came from big producers, organic, pastured, etc. The authors state that the pathways for PBDEs into food are unknown and that more research is needed to identify them. (Environmental Health Perspectives)

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