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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Feb 15;42(4):1157-64.

Reductive debromination of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in anaerobic sediment and a biomimetic system.

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School of Civil Engineering, and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-2051, USA.


Because of the bioaccumulation of penta- and tetrapolybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants in biota,the environmental biotransformation of decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) is of interest. BDE-209 accounts for more than 80% by mass of PBDE production and is the dominant PBDE in sediments. Most sediments are anaerobic and reports of microbial reductive dehalogenation of hydrophobic persistent organohalogen pollutants are numerous. Reductive debromination of BDE-209 in the environment could provide a significant source of lesser-brominated PBDEs to biota. Moreover, a recent study showed that BDE-209 debrominates in sewage sludge, and another demonstrated that some halorespiring bacteria will debrominate BDE-209. To determine whether reductive debromination of BDE-209 occurs in sediments, parallel experiments were conducted using anaerobic sediment microcosms and a cosolvent-enhanced biomimetic system. In the biomimetic system, reductive debromination occurred at rates corresponding to bromine substitution levels with a BDE-209 half-life of only 18 s compared with a halflife of almost 60 days for 2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether. In sediment, the measured debromination half-life of BDE-209 was well over a decade and was in good agreement with the predicted value obtained from the biomimetic experiment. Product congeners were predominantly double para-substituted. BDE-209 debrominated in sediment with a corresponding increase in nona-, octa-, hepta-, and hexa-PBDEs. Nine new PBDE congeners appeared in sediment from reductive debromination. Given the very large BDE-209 burden already in sediments globally, it is important to determine whether this transformation is a significant source of lesser-brominated PBDEs to the environment.

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