Transport and fate of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the Baltic and Arctic regions

image of Transport and fate of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the Baltic and Arctic regions

In the last decades, concern has been raised regarding the use of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) due to its increased environmental occurrence and its possible toxicological impact in humans and wildlife. As a result, two of the commercial PBDE products have recently been banned within the EU, while the use of the third product (DecaBDE) is still approved. A dynamic, fugacity-based, regional multimedia fate and transport model (POPCYCLING-Baltic) has been used to assess the historical behaviour and the potential future fate of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), exemplifying different emission scenarios following the introduction of restricting measures. The past, current and future consumption and emission of PBDEs were estimated, and the environmental fate of individual compounds was modelled. The possible impact on the Arctic region is also discussed. Uncertainties in the estimates and data gaps were identified.



Atmospheric emissions

Once consumption estimates have been obtained, the next step is to estimate the consecutive emissions following PBDE consumption. The data may be used for derivation of emissions to any media desired, however, in this case we have assumed that the atmosphere is the primary recipient media. The uncertainties with this assumption will be discussed later. The fact that PBDEs are used as additives (not chemically bound to the material) has potentially important implications for the propensity for emissions, e.g. allowing PBDEs to “bleed” from the material to the environment over time (compare e.g. phthalates and similar compounds). Presumably, this “bleeding” of PBDEs could be expected to occur at different rates, whereby the less brominated congeners are depleted first. Although the empirical support for such a hypothesis is lacking, it has been observed for PCBs (Breivik et al. 2002b and references therein). It has also been reported that high molecular weight products were developed to prevent the material from losing the fire retarding capacity as time evolves (Rahman et al. 2001).


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