Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Raymond D. Harbison, Ph.D., M.S.

Committee Member

Giffe T. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Marie Bourgeois, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Nicholas Hall, Ph.D.


flame retardants, PBDEs, NHANES


Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants widely used within the United States in various products such as plastics, electronics, textiles and furniture. With an increase in production and usage, PBDEs have recently emerged as a contaminant of concern. Due to their chemical structure, PBDEs have the propensity to bioaccumulate in mammals. In fact, elevated PBDE concentrations have been recorded in human breast milk. Due to the potential widespread exposure to PBDEs, this study investigates human blood concentrations of PBDEs generated through the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Through the use of statistical modeling, a comparison of mean PBDE concentrations in ng/g lipid is conducted based on age, gender and ethnicity. From a sample of 2337 individuals, the average blood concentration of PBDEs was approximately 81 ng/g lipid. The average PBDE concentration of males was significantly higher than females, using a 95% confidence level. In addition, PBDEs detected in human blood ranged approximately from 0.05 to 3676 ng/g lipid, with the highest concentrations found in black males. Also, a logistic regression analysis is conducted to determine whether an increase in background PBDE concentrations is a risk factor for obesity. Furthermore, the analyses of PBDEs are repeated for phthalates and polychlorinated Biphenyls for comparison. Finally, the measured concentrations of PBDEs are also compared to health outcome data known to show potential risk.