Hair as a non-invasive matrix for assessment of human exposure to selected flame retardants and future potential in biomonitoring studies

Date: 8 January 2016

Venue: UAntwerp - Campus Drie Eiken - Building Q - promotiezaal - Universiteitplein 1 - 2610 Antwerp (Wilrijk)

Time: 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

PhD candidate: Agnieszka Kucharska

Principal investigator: Adrian Covaci

Co-principal investigator: Stefan Voorspoels

Short description: Phd defence Agnieszka Kucharska - Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Department Pharmaceutical Sciences


Flame retardants (FRs), such as phosphate flame retardants (PFRs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers  (PBDEs), are added to consumer products (e.g. plastics, electronic and electrical devices, textiles, furniture, etc.) to inhibit the spread of flame in case of a fire. Unforunately, these chemicals might be also harmful for human health, so there is a need to better understand and characterize human exposure.

Human biomonitoring is a valuable tool that can provide important information about impact, relevance and extent of exposure to chemicals. For ethical and practical reasons, non-invasive matrices, such as hair, are advisable, but unfortunately they are not widely used due to methodological limitations. In the frame of the EU FP7-INFLAME project, Agnieszka Kucharska and colleagues at VITO and University of Antwerp have assessed the applicability of hair as an indicator of exposure to selected FRs.

A first aim was to develop, optimize and validate a method for the analysis of FRs (PBDEs and PFRs) in a low amount of hair. The method was applied to 20 hair samples from volunteers from the Belgian population. The results show that the method is capable of delivering useful results of adequate quality.

Second, the possibility to distinguish between external and internal exposure was investigated, considering that the presence of dust and air cannot be neglected. Consequently, it was suggested that hair is a suitable matrix for the assessment of retrospective and integral exposure that includes both atmospheric deposition and endogenous mechanisms.

Third, also earwax was considerd as a suitable non-invasive matrix. The method was therefore applied to 10 human earwax and hair samples collected among population from the plastic burning sites in the Middle East. Correlations of FR levels among the two matrices were investigated.

Last, the analysis of FRs was performed in 100 hair samples collected during a sampling campaign in Oslo in collaboration with the INFLAME project partners aiming to assess hair as an indicator of exposure to PFRs. Correlations were sought between the levels measured in hair and dust/air samples and the corresponding metabolites in urine samples collected simultaneously from the partcipants. This work leads to the conclusion that hair is a suitable non-invasive manner to assess exposure to FRs.