Atmospheric transport of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polychlorinated biphenyls to the Baltic sea

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The atmospheric transport of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was compared by measuring concentrations in air and deposition on an island located in the central basin of the Baltic Sea. Median SigmaPBDE and SigmaPCB concentrations (gaseous + particle) were 8.6 and 7.4 pg m(-3), respectively. Airborne PCBs were mainly found in the gaseous phase, while most of the PBDEs were detected on particles, which agrees with predicted particle/gas distributions. SigmaPBDE levels were dominated by the decabrominated BDE209 followed by the tetrabrominated BDE47 and pentabrominated BDE99. BDE209 is a marker for the environmental distribution of the commercial deca-BDE formulation (>99.5% BDE209), whereas BDE47 and BDE99 are markers for the commercial penta-BDE mixture. General correlations between PBDEs and PCBs suggested similarities in sources and transport mechanism, while more detailed examination of the data identified notable behaviors and exceptions. Differences in regression slopes among tetra-, penta-, and decabrominated PBDEs may reflect different transport processes and the change in usage pattern. Tetra- and pentabrominated PBDEs may originate from secondary sources such as air surface exchange in a manner similar to that of the PCBs, while the deca-BDE209 formulation still has primary sources. The tribrominated BDE17 was also detected and is proposed to be a breakdown product due to atmospheric debromination processes. PBDEs had higher washout ratios than PCBs, explaining their higher concentrations compared to PCBs in precipitation (median of 6.0 and 0.5 ng L-1 for SigmaBDE and SigmaPCB concentrations ("dissolved" + particle), respectively) than in air. The calculated yearly deposition of PBDEs and PCBs indicated that the atmospheric input of PBDEs to the Baltic Proper is currently exceeding that of the PCBs by a factor of 40, while that of the PCBs is decreasing.


  • Arnout ter Schure
  • Per Larsson
  • Cecilia Agrell
  • J P Boon
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1282-1287
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch