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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Feb 15;39(4):1078-83.

Anaerobic degradation of decabromodiphenyl ether.

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Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), Uberlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


The environmental safety of decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209), a widely used flame retardant, has been the topic of controversial discussions during the past several years. Degradation of BDE-209 into lower brominated diphenyl ether congeners, exhibiting a higher bioaccumulation potential, has been a critical issue. Here, we report on the degradation of BDE-209 and the formation of octa- and nonabromodiphenyl ether congeners under anaerobic conditions. Sewage sludge collected from a mesophilic digester was used as the inoculum and incubated up to 238 days with and without a set of five primers. Following Soxhlet extraction and a liquid chromatography cleanup procedure, parent compounds and debromination products were analyzed by GC/HRMS. In experiments with primers, concentrations of BDE-209 decreased by 30% within 238 days. This corresponds to a pseudo-first-order degradation rate constant of 1 x 10(-3) d(-1). Without primers, the degradation rate constant was 50% lower. Formation of two nonabromodiphenyl ether and six octabromodiphenyl ether congeners proved that BDE-209 underwent reductive debromination in these experiments. Debromination occurred at the para and the meta positions, whereas debromination at the ortho position was not statistically significant. All three nonabromodiphenyl ether congeners (BDE-206, BDE-207, and BDE-208) were found to undergo reductive debromination as well. No significant change of the BDE-209 concentration and no formation of lower brominated congeners was observed in sterile control experiments. To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating microbially mediated reductive debromination of BDE-209 under anaerobic conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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