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April 13, 2005

Health Risks Associated With Polychlorinated Biphenyls—Reply

JAMA. 2005;293(14):1725. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1725-b

In Reply: I showed the preceding letter to Dr Seegal, who is with the New York State Department of Health and the University of Albany’s School of Public Health. The following is his response:

I agree that flame retardants, and PBDEs specifically, have saved lives and prevented harm, as supported in a recent review by Birnbaum and Staskal.1 Nevertheless, PBDEs, PCBs, dibenzofurans, and dioxins are all halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons; indeed, the nomenclature for describing PCB and PBDE congeners is identical. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that PBDE exposure results in a spectrum of health effects in animal models similar to those seen for PCBs. This is particularly so for the less brominated congeners, in which exposure is associated with alterations in behavior and neurochemistry2 and endocrine function.3 Of equal import is that many PBDE congeners, because of their lipophilicity, bioaccumulate in the environment and in humans, as do PCBs. The rate of accumulation of PBDEs appears to be increasing.4

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