The toxicological effects of halogenated naphthalenes: a review of aryl hydrocarbon receptor-mediated (dioxin-like) relative potency factors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • JERZY Falandysz
  • Alwyn Fernandes
  • Ewa Gregoraszczuk
  • Martin Rose


There is no doubt that chloronaphthalenes (PCNs) and their brominated counterparts (PBNs) are dioxin-like compounds, but there is less evidence for mixed bromo/chloronaphthalenes (PXNs). In this article we review information relating to the dioxin-like potency of PCNs and PBNs obtained in vivo, in vitro, and in silico. The aim was to help and improve the quality of data when assessing the contribution of these compounds in the risk analysis of dioxin-like contaminants in foods and other sample types. In vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated that PCN/PBN congeners are inducers of aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase, ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase, and luciferase enzymes that are features specifically indicative of planar diaromatic halogenated hydrocarbons such as dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. PCNs in the environment are of multisource origin. The limited data on PBNs in the environment suggest that these also appear to originate from different sources. The toxicological data on these compounds is even scarcer, most of it directed toward explaining the exposure risk from accidental contamination of feed with the commercial PBN containing product, Firemaster BP-6. The occurrence of PBNs and PXNs is possible as ultra-trace environmental and food-chain contaminants produced at least from combustion processes at unknown concentrations. Available toxicological and environmental data enable a focus on PCNs as dioxin analogues to an extent that specific local or regional environmental influences could result in a risk to human health. There is the possibility that they may act synergistically with the better-known classic dioxin and other dioxin-like compounds. PBNs and PXNs are much less studied than the dioxins, but are known to be products of anthropogenic processes that contaminate the environment. A continuously increasing use of bromine for manufacture of brominated flame retardants over the past three decades is anticipated as a stream of "brominated" wastes, that when degraded (combusted), will release PBNs and PXNs. This calls for advanced analytical methods and greater interest toxicologically to understand and control pollution and exposure by PBNs and PXNs. Particular congeners of bromonaphthalene in single studies were found to be much more toxic than their chlorinated counterparts. In addition, brominated/chlorinated naphthalenes also seem to be more potent toxicants than PCNs. About 20% of PCN congeners exhibit a dioxin-like toxicity with relative potencies varying between around 0.003 and 0.000001, but additional and more rigorous data are needed to confirm these figures. Recent food surveys have estimated a small but relevant human exposure to these compounds in foods, giving an additional source of dioxin-like toxicity to those compounds already covered by the World Health Organization-Toxic Equivalency Factors (TEFs) scheme. Given the additivity of response postulated for other dioxin-like compounds, it would seem unwise to ignore this additional contribution. Few data available showed that PBN congeners also exhibit a dioxin-like toxicity and are even more potent than PCN congeners, but the relative potency values were not derived for them until now. There are no toxicological data available for PXNs.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-272
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health. Part C: Environmental Carcinogenesis & Ecotoxicology Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014