Brominated Flame Retardants in Polar Bears (<i>Ursus maritimus)</i> from Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, East Greenland, and Svalbard

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were determined in adipose tissue of adult and subadult female polar bears sampled between 1999 and 2002 from sub-populations in Arctic Canada, eastern Greenland, and Svalbard, and in males and females collected from 1994 to 2002 in northwestern Alaska. Only 4 congeners (BDE47, 99, 100, and 153) were consistently identified in all samples. BDE47 was the major PBDE congener representing from 65% to 82% of the sum (Σ) PBDEs. Age was not a significant co-variate for individual PBDEs or ΣPBDE. Higher proportions of BDE 99, 100, and 153 were generally found in samples from the Canadian Arctic than from Svalbard or the Bering-Chukchi Sea area of Alaska. Geometric mean ΣPBDE concentrations were highest for female polar bear fat samples collected from Svalbard (50 ng/g lipid weight (lw)) and East Greenland (70 ng/g lw). Significantly lower ΣPBDE concentrations were found in fat of bears from Canada and Alaska (means ranging from 7.6 to 22 ng/g lw). For the entire dataset, ΣPBDE concentrations were correlated with ΣPCBs. Higher total hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) concentrations were found in fat of bears from Greenland and Svalbard than in those from Alaska. The geographical trends for PBDEs and HBCD parallel those for PCBs implying similar source regions for long range transport to the Arctic and bioaccumulation pathways in the arctic marine food web. All four major PBDE congeners were found to biomagnify from ringed seals to polar bears. BDE153 showed the greatest (71×) biomagnification factors (BMFs) and, on average, had a BMF that was 5.5-fold higher than for PCB congener 153 (13×) but similar to PCB congener 194 (73×), indicating that it is a highly bioaccumulative compound.