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Environ Int. 2012 Oct 15;47:56-65. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.06.005. Epub 2012 Jul 4.

Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants in San Francisco Bay sediments and wildlife.

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  • 1San Francisco Estuary Institute, 4911 Central Avenue, Richmond, CA 94804, USA.


Restrictions on the use of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have resulted in the use of alternative flame retardants in consumer products to comply with flammability standards. In contrast to PBDEs, information on the occurrence and fate of these alternative compounds in the environment is limited, particularly in the United States. In this study, a survey of flame retardants in San Francisco Bay was conducted to evaluate whether PBDE replacement chemicals and other current use flame retardants were accumulating in the Bay food web. In addition to PBDEs, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants (hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and Dechlorane Plus (DP)) were detected in Bay sediments and wildlife. Median concentrations of PBDEs, HBCD, and DP, respectively, were 4.3, 0.3, and 0.2 ng g⁻¹ dry weight (dw) in sediments; 1670, <6.0, and 0.5 ng g⁻¹ lipid weight (lw) in white croaker (Genyonemus lineatus); 1860, 6.5, and 1.3 ng g⁻¹ lw in shiner surfperch (Cymatogaster aggregata); 5500, 37.4, and 0.9 ng g⁻¹ lw in eggs of double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus); 770, 7.1, and 0.9 ng g⁻¹ lw in harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) adults; and 330, 3.5, and <0.1 ng g⁻¹ lw in harbor seal (P. vitulina) pups. Two additional flame retardants, pentabromoethylbenzene (PBEB) and 1,2-bis(2,4,6 tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE) were detected in sediments but with less frequency and at lower concentrations (median concentrations of 0.01 and 0.02 ng g⁻¹ dw, respectively) compared to the other flame retardants. PBEB was also detected in each of the adult harbor seals and in 83% of the pups (median concentrations 0.2 and 0.07 ng g⁻¹ lw, respectively). The flame retardants hexabromobenzene (HBB), decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE), bis(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate (TBPH), and 2-ethylhexyl 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB), were not detected in sediments and BTBPE, HBB and TBB were not detected in wildlife samples. Elevated concentrations of some flame retardants were likely associated with urbanization and Bay hydrodynamics. Compared to other locations, concentrations of PBDEs in Bay wildlife were comparable or higher, while concentrations of the alternatives were generally lower. This study is the first to determine concentrations of PBDE replacement products and other flame retardants in San Francisco Bay, providing some of the first data on the food web occurrence of these flame retardants in a North American urbanized estuary.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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