This thesis focuses on toxicity and occurrence of hydroxylated polybrominated diphenyl ethers (OH-PBDEs) in Baltic Sea biota. The aims were to assess OH-PBDEs potency for disruption of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and determine their and related compounds exposure in Baltic blue mussel, herring and long-tailed duck. A method for analysis of OH-PBDEs in herring and long-tailed duck plasma was also evaluated.

Relevant OH-PBDEs were tested in vitro for OXPHOS disruption, using a classic rat mitochondrial respiration assay and a cell mitochondrial membrane potential assay. All compounds were found to disrupt OXPHOS either by protonophoric uncoupling and/or via inhibition of the electron transport chain. 6-OH-BDE47 and 6-OH-BDE85, were identified as particularly potent OXPHOS disruptors. Strong synergism was observed when OH-PBDEs were tested as a mixture corresponding to what is present in Baltic blue mussels.

Baltic blue mussel is main feed for several species of mussel feeding sea ducks which have decreased dramatically in numbers. To assess long-tailed ducks exposure to brominated substances, liver tissue from long-tailed ducks wintering in the Baltic Sea and blue mussels were analysed. The result confirms that long-tailed duck are exposed to OH-PBDEs via their diet. However, low concentrations were found in the duck livers, which suggest low retention of these compounds despite daily intake. How the nutritional value of blue mussels as feed for sea ducks are affected by OH-PBDE exposure still needs further studies. Other species of sea ducks foraging on Baltic blue mussels during summer months can also be more exposed due to seasonal variation in primary production.

Herring sampled in the Baltic Proper and Bothnian Sea, were found to contain OH-PBDEs and high levels of their methylated counterpart, MeO-PBDEs. As demethylation of MeO-PBDEs is known to occur in fish, MeO-PBDEs may pose as additional source for more toxic OH-PBDEs in herring and their roe.