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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Oct 1;41(19):6663-70.

Evidence of debromination of decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) in biota from a wastewater receiving stream.

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  • 1Department of Environmental and Aquatic Animal Health, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA.


Decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) is a high production volume flame retardant. To date, regulation and control of its environmental release have been minimal. Once in the environment, BDE-209 may encounter conditions favoring debromination, potentially forming congeners with greater toxicity, bioaccumulation potential, and persistence. However, (photolytic and in vivo) debromination has only been demonstrated under laboratory scenarios. To examine whether debromination was likely in the field, PBDE congener profiles were tracked from a wastewater treatment plant (sludge) to receiving stream sediments and associated aquatic biota. BDE-209 and 23 additional PBDEs were detected. Sludge congener profiles resembled the commercial penta- and deca- formulations, suggesting minimal -209 debromination during wastewater treatment. Similar profiles were observed in surficial sediments at the outfall and downstream. However, sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), and crayfish (Cambarus puncticambarus sp. c) collected near the outfall contained tri- through deca-PBDEs, including congeners not detected in the commercial deca-mixture, sludges or sediments (BDE-179, -184, -188, -201, and -202). A previous in vivo laboratory study identified these as -209 debromination products. This supports the hypothesis that metabolic debromination of -209 does occur in the aquatic environment under realistic conditions. Hence assessments that assume no BDE-209 debromination may underestimate associated bioaccumulation and toxicity attributable to the less brominated congeners produced.

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