Urinary tetrabromobenzoic acid (TBBA) as a biomarker of exposure to the flame retardant mixture Firemaster® 550.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Firemaster® 550 (FM550) is commonly added to residential furniture to reduce its flammability. Recent toxicological evidence suggests that FM550 may be endocrine disrupting and obesogenic.


Our objectives were to develop methods to assess exposure to FM550 in human populations and to identify potential routes of exposure.


Using mass spectrometry methods, we developed a method to measure 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoic acid (TBBA), a urinary metabolite of the major brominated FM550 component 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB). The method was applied to a cohort of adult volunteers (n = 64). Participants completed questionnaires, provided urine and handwipe samples, and collected dust samples from their homes. We measured TBB and the other major brominated FM550 component, bis(2-ethylhexyl)-2,3,4,5-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), in paired dust and handwipe samples.


TBBA was detected in 72.4% of urine samples. Although TBBA is a rapidly formed metabolite, analyses indicated moderate temporal reliability (interclass correlation coefficient = 0.56; 95% confidence interval: 0.46, 0.66). TBB and TBPH were detected frequently in dust samples [geometric mean (GM) = 315.1 and 364.7 ng/g, respectively] and in handwipes (GM = 31.4 and 23.4 ng, respectively). Levels of TBB and TBPH in dust were positively correlated with levels in handwipes. In addition, levels of TBB in handwipes were positively correlated with urinary TBBA. Results suggest frequent hand washing may reduce the mass of TBB on participants' hands and reduce urinary TBBA levels.


Cumulatively, our data indicate that exposures to FM550 are widespread and that the home environment may be an important source of exposure. Urinary TBBA provides a potentially useful biomarker of FM550 exposure for epidemiologic studies.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hoffman, K; Fang, M; Horman, B; Patisaul, HB; Garantziotis, S; Birnbaum, LS; Stapleton, HM

Published Date

  • September 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 122 / 9

Start / End Page

  • 963 - 969

PubMed ID

  • 24823833

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4154220

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-9924

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0091-6765

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1289/ehp.1308028


  • eng