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Atmospheric emissions of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) during a major anthropogenic combustion event.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date15/03/2004
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Number of pages5
Original languageEnglish


Air samples were taken for the analysis of persistent organic pollutants before, during, and after the national U.K. “Bonfire Festival” in November 2000. As expected, ambient levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) increased sharply in response to the widespread diffusive combustion processes that occurred at the time. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) also increased at the suburban sampling location, to a greater extent than the PAHs. The rise and fall in PBDE concentrations was rapid, coinciding closely with the PAH “combustion markers”. These data provide evidence for a novel mechanism responsible for dissipation of PBDEs into the environment. It is hypothesized that products treated with the penta-BDE productnotably household furnishing foams and textileshave been subject to (unsanctioned) burning on private bonfires; even if the majority of the PBDE burden of such products is debrominated/broken down in the fires, it is shown that only small amounts of the total “stock” of penta product need be emitted to generate the concentra tions detected. The mixture of PBDEs in the air during the Bonfire Festival was enriched in higher brominated congeners (e.g., BDE-99, -153, and -154) compared to that in background air. Estimates are made of the masses of compound classes that may have been emitted to the atmosphere during the festival.