Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in the aquatic environment: A case study of the Elbe River, Germany


This study reports the occurrence and distribution of organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers (OPEs) in the Elbe and Rhine rivers. A special focus of this investigation concerns the potential impacts of a major flood event in 2013 on the OPE patterns and levels in the Elbe River. In this river, 6 of 13 OPEs were detected, with tris-ethyl-phosphate (TEP, 168 ± 44 ng/L), tris-1,3-dichloro-2-propyl-phosphate (TDCPP, 155 ± 14 ng/L) and tris-1-chloro-2-propyl phosphate (TCPP, 126 ± 14 ng/L) identified as the dominant compounds. Relative to previous studies, an increase in the concentrations and relative contributions of TDCPP to the total level of OPEs was observed, which was likely caused by its increased use as a replacement for the technical pentaBDE formulation. During the flood event, the concentrations of OPEs were similar to the normal situation, but the mass fluxes increased by a factor of approximately ten (∼16 kg/d normal versus ∼160 kg/d flood peak). No input hotspots were identified along the transects of the Elbe and Rhine rivers, and the mass flux of OPEs appeared to be driven by water discharge.
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