Decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) is a widely used brominated flame retardant, considered to be of low toxicity. However, previous toxicity studies applied exposure methods with low bioavailability of this compound, and the actual hazard of decaBDE for humans, which are environmentally exposed to decaBDE, may thus be underestimated in current risk assessments. The present 28 days oral toxicity study in Wistar rats was designed to facilitate detection of endocrine and immune modulating effects of decaBDE using an exposure protocol with improved bioavailability. A technical preparation of high purity decaBDE was thus tested by daily exposure through gavage with an emulsion of soy phospholipon/lutrol as a carrier. Most sensitive effect in males were increased weight of seminal vesicle/coagulation gland with BMDL of 0.2 mg/kg bw/day and increased expression of hepatic CYP1A and CYP2B (BMDLs 0.5-0.7 mg/kg bw/day). In females the most sensitive effect was decreased activity of P450c17 (CYP17), which is a key enzyme in the androgen synthesis pathway, in adrenals (BMDL 0.18 mg/kg bw/day). These results suggest that decaBDE may represent an as yet unreported hazard for reproductive health.

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Toxicology Letters
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam