Effects of river flooding on polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels in cows’ milk, soil, and grass

Iain R. Lake, Christopher D. Foxall, Alwyn Fernandes, Mervyn Lewis, Martin Rose, Oliver White, Alan Dowding

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The first investigation into PBDE levels in food produced from flood-prone land on industrial river catchments was conducted. In August 2008 samples of cows' milk, along with grass and soil were taken from 5 pairs of flood-prone and control farms on the River Trent (Central UK). The sum of 7 BDE congeners (28, 47, 99, 100, 153, 154, and 183) was calculated. Higher PBDE levels occurred in soil on flood-prone compared to control farms (median 770 vs 280 ng/kg dry weight). These higher levels were not reflected in the grass samples indicating that PBDE contamination on soils is not transferred efficiently to grass. This observation alongside the fact that cows on flood-prone farms spend time on non-flood-prone land and are fed substantial quantities of commercial feed are reasons why higher PBDE levels were not found in milk from flood-prone farms (median 300 vs 250 ng/kg fat weight). Similar BDE47/BDE99 ratios were observed in soil and grass samples compared to the PBDE product commonly used in the UK, indicating few differences in source-pathway transfer efficiencies between congeners. The BDE47/BDE99 ratio in the milk samples was greater than those in the grass and feed indicating differential food to milk transfer efficiencies between congeners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5017-5024
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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