Update of the risk assessment of hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) in food

EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM), Dieter Schrenk, Margherita Bignami, Laurent Bodin, James Kevin Chipman, Jesus del Mazo, Bettina Grasl-Kraupp, Christer Hogstrand, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Jean Charles Leblanc, Carlo Stefano Nebbia, Elsa Nielsen, Evangelia E. Ntzani, Annette Petersen, Salomon Sand, Tanja Schwerdtle, Heather Wallace, Diane Benford, Peter Fürst, Martin RoseSofia Ioannidou, Marina Nikolic, Luisa Ramos Bordajandi, Christiane Vleminckx

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The European Commission asked EFSA to update its 2011 risk assessment on hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) in food. HBCDDs, predominantly mixtures of the stereoisomers α‐, β‐ and γ‐HBCDD, were widely used additive flame retardants. Concern has been raised because of the occurrence of HBCDDs in the environment, food and in humans. Main targets for toxicity are neurodevelopment, the liver, thyroid hormone homeostasis and the reproductive and immune systems. The CONTAM Panel concluded that the neurodevelopmental effects on behaviour in mice can be considered the critical effects. Based on effects on spontaneous behaviour in mice, the Panel identified a lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) of 0.9 mg/kg body weight (bw) as the Reference Point, corresponding to a body burden of 0.75 mg/kg bw. The chronic intake that would lead to the same body burden in humans was calculated to be 2.35 μg/kg bw per day. The derivation of a health‐based guidance value (HBGV) was not considered appropriate. Instead, the margin of exposure (MOE) approach was applied to assess possible health concerns. Over 6,000 analytical results for HBCDDs in food were used to estimate the exposure across dietary surveys and age groups of the European population. The most important contributors to the chronic dietary LB exposure to HBCDDs were fish meat, eggs, livestock meat and poultry. The CONTAM Panel concluded that the resulting MOE values support the conclusion that current dietary exposure to HBCDDs across European countries does not raise a health concern. An exception is breastfed infants with high milk consumption, for which the lowest MOE values may raise a health concern.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere06421
Number of pages130
JournalEFSA Journal
Issue number3
Early online date8 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Panel members: Margherita Bignami, Laurent Bodin, James Kevin Chipman, Jesus del Mazo, BettinaGrasl-Kraupp, Christer Hogstrand, Laurentius (Ron) Hoogenboom, Jean-Charles Leblanc, Carlo StefanoNebbia, Elsa Nielsen, Evangelia Ntzani, Annette Petersen, Salomon Sand, Dieter Schrenk, TanjaSchwerdtle, Christiane Vleminckx and Heather Wallace

Requestor: European Commission
Question number: EFSA‐Q‐2018‐00433

Acknowledgements: The Panel wishes to thank the hearing experts: Cathy Fernandes and Henri Schroeder, and EFSA staff members: Kelly Niermans and Federico Cruciani, for the support provided to this scientific output. The Panel wishes to acknowledge all European competent institutions and Member State bodies that provided consumption and occurrence data for this scientific output.
Data: All annexes on occurrence and exposure data, as well as the protocol used to produce this Scientific opinion, cross‐referenced in the text, are available on the EFSA Knowledge Junction at: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4475651


  • hexabromocyclododecanes
  • HBCDDs
  • occurrence
  • food
  • toxicology
  • human exposure
  • risk assessment


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