Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 12, pp 10351–10364 | Cite as

A national probabilistic study of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in fish from US lakes and reservoirs

  • Leanne L. StahlEmail author
  • Blaine D. Snyder
  • Anthony R. Olsen
  • Lynn S. Walters


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals that are present in air, water, soil, sediment, and biota (including fish). Most previous studies of PBDEs in fish were spatially focused on targeted waterbodies. National estimates were developed for PBDEs in fish from lakes and reservoirs of the conterminous US (excluding the Laurentian Great Lakes) using an unequal probability design. Predator (fillet) and bottom-dweller (whole-body) composites were collected during 2003 from 166 lakes selected randomly from the target population of 147,343 lakes. Both composite types comprised nationally representative samples that were extrapolated to the sampled population of 76,559 and 46,190 lakes for predators and bottom dwellers, respectively. Fish were analyzed for 34 individual PBDE congeners and six co-eluting congener pairs representing a total of 46 PBDEs. All samples contained detectable levels of PBDEs, and BDE-47 predominated. The maximum aggregated sums of congeners ranged from 38.3 ng/g (predators) to 125 ng/g (bottom dwellers). Maximum concentrations in fish from this national probabilistic study exceeded those reported from recent targeted studies of US inland lakes, but were lower than those from Great Lakes studies. The probabilistic design allowed the development of cumulative distribution functions to quantify PBDE concentrations versus the cumulative number of US lakes from the sampled population.


Fish tissue Polybrominated diphenyl ethers Lakes Probabilistic survey 



This study was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and technical support was provided under EPA Contracts EP-C-04-030, ET-W-06-046, and EP-C-09-019, MOBIS Contract GS-23F-9820, and Sample Control Center Contract 68-C-98-139. The manuscript has been subjected to review and approved for publication by US EPA’s Office of Research and Development and EPA’s Office of Water. Approval does not signify that the contents reflect the views of the Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

This study was made possible by the collaborative efforts of US EPA’s Office of Water, EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and a national network of state, tribal, and federal agency partners. Deep appreciation is expressed to all staff in the participating agencies who conducted lake reconnaissance, planned sampling logistics, and collected fish samples. Technical support was also provided by study team members from Tetra Tech, Inc. (Jennifer Flippen, Erik Leppo, Ann Roseberry Lincoln, and Jennifer Linder), and CSC (Harry McCarty and Michael Walsh). Appreciation is also expressed to Elizabeth Murphy (Great Lakes National Program Office) and Chris Schmitt (US Geological Survey) for their technical review of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leanne L. Stahl
    • 1
    Email author
  • Blaine D. Snyder
    • 2
  • Anthony R. Olsen
    • 3
  • Lynn S. Walters
    • 4
  1. 1.OW/Office of Science and TechnologyU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Ecological SciencesTetra Tech, Inc.Owings MillsUSA
  3. 3.ORD/National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory, Western Ecology DivisionU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.CSCAlexandriaUSA

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