From headwaters to estuary: Distribution and fate of halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) in a river basin near the largest HFR manufacturing base in China


With the gradual phasing out of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), market demands for alternative halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) are increasing. The Laizhou Bay area is the biggest manufacturing base for brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in China, and the Xiaoqing River is the largest and most heavily contaminated river in this region. Water and sediment samples were collected from the headwaters to the estuary of the Xiaoqing River to investigate the distribution and fate of HFRs [i.e., PBDEs, alternative brominated flame retardants (aBFRs) and dechlorane plus (DPs). In the water samples, DPs was the most abundant flame retardant (median: 11.7 ng/L), followed by decabromodiphenylethane (DBDPE) (5.92 ng/L). In the sediment samples, DBDPE was the predominant flame retardant (39.5 ng/g dw), followed by decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 209) (2.81 ng/g dw). The levels of DBDPE exceeded those of BDE 209 in most samples, indicating the overwhelming replacement of BDE 209 by DBDPE in this area. In the river section of this study, point source and atmospheric deposition followed by land runoff were the major factors influencing the distribution of HFRs, whereas in the estuary, riverine discharge, the estuarine maximum turbidity zone (MTZ), and hydrodynamic parameters played more important roles. Manufacturing is a significant source of contamination of the Xiaoqing River basin through atmospheric deposition and wastewater discharge.
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