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Doctoral thesis, 2017

Levels and trends of flame retardants in the Swedish environment

Gustavsson, Jakob


Flame retardants (FRs) are compounds used in, e.g., electronics and furniture to prevent fires. Due to leakage, FRs are widely spread in the environment and several FRs have been found to be environmentally persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. As a result, legacy FRs such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been banned, and replaced by alternative FRs with often similar properties as the banned ones. The aims of this thesis were to develop an analytical method for the analysis of alternative FRs, to assess the current FR pollution in Sweden, and to improve the understanding of transport and fate of FRs within boreal catchments. In Paper I, gas chromatography (GC) coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) using an electron impact (EI) ion source was concluded to provide the best overall sensitivity, for most analysed FRs, including halogenated FRs (HFRs), organophosphorus FRs (OPFRs) and PBDEs. Alumina was found to be the superior material for clean-up of FR-containing extracts. In Paper II, Oasis HLB eluted with dichloromethane (DCM) was concluded to provide the highest overall recovery for the extraction of FRs from water. A high influence (both positive and negative) of natural organic matter (NOM) on extraction recovery was observed for all extracted FRs when extracted from NOM-containing water. The influence appeared to be systematic and the formation of a NOM-sorbent layer and the ability of certain FRs to form strong hydrogen bonds are suggested to be key mechanisms when extracting FRs from NOM-containing water. The concentrations of FRs in Swedish rivers were investigated in Paper III. ΣFR concentrations ranged up to 170 ng/L (mean 31 ± 45 ng/L) with generally higher concentrations in the south (latitude<62°N) than in the north (latitude>62°N). Several OPFRs are suggested to undergo long-range atmospheric transport (LRAT). Daily fluxes of FRs into the Baltic Sea were estimated to be 8.8 kg/day and comprised mainly tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA), 3,4,5,6-tetrabromophthalic anhydride (TEBP-Anh), and 2,4,6-tribromo-phenol (TBP). This is presumably the first time environmental detection of TEBP-Anh is reported and it is suggested to originate from nearby airports. In Paper IV, elevated FR concentrations were observed in streams and rivers during spring flood and hydrophobicity fractionation was observed during snowmelt. HFR concentrations were generally higher at a mire site than at a forested site.


flame retardant, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, solid-phase extraction, natural organic matter, long-range atmospheric transport, seasonal change, hydrophobicity fractionation, boreal catchment

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2017, number: 2017:90
ISBN: 978-91-7760-070-1, eISBN: 978-91-7760-071-8
Publisher: Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Gustavsson, Jakob
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

UKÄ Subject classification

Analytical Chemistry
Environmental Sciences
Organic Chemistry

URI (permanent link to this page)