“Identifying Transfer Mechanisms & Sources of Decabromodiphenyl Ether (BDE 209) in Indoor Environments Using Environmental Forensic Microscopy” (2009)


Environmental Science & Technology, Vol 43, No. 9, 2009, p.3067-3072


Although the presence of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in house dust has been linked to consumer products, the mechanism of transfer remains poorly understood. We conjecture that volatilized PBDEs will be associated with dust particles containing organic matter and will be homogeneously distributed in house dust. In contrast, PBDEs arising from weathering or abrasion of polymers should remain bound to particles of the original polymer matrix and will be heterogeneously distributed within the dust.

We used scanning electron microscopy and other tools of environmental forensic microscopy to investigate PBDEs in dust, examining U.S. and U.K. dust samples with extremely high levels of BDE 209 (260-2600 ug/g), a nonvolatile compound at room temperature. We found that the bromine in these samples was concentrated in widely scattered, highly contaminated particles.

In the house dust samples from Boston (U.S.), bromine was associated with a polymer/organic matrix. These results suggest that the BDE 209 was transferred to dust via physical processes such as abrasion or weathering. In conjunction with more traditional tools of environmental chemistry, such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), environmental forensic microscopy provides novel insights into the origins of BDE 209 in dust and their mechanisms of transfer from products.

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