Identification and quantification of products formed via photolysis of decabromodiphenyl ether

  • Anna Christiansson
  • Johan Eriksson
  • Daniel Teclechiel
  • Åke Bergman


Background, aim, and scope

Decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) is used as an additive flame retardant in polymers. It has become a ubiquitous environmental contaminant, particularly abundant in abiotic media, such as sediments, air, and dust, and also present in wildlife and in humans. The main DecaBDE constituent, perbrominated diphenyl ether (BDE-209), is susceptible to transformations as observed in experimental work. This work is aimed at identifying and assessing the relative amounts of products formed after UV irradiation of BDE-209.

Materials and methods

BDE-209, dissolved in tetrahydrofuran (THF), methanol, or combinations of methanol/water, was exposed to UV light for 100 or 200 min. Samples were analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (electron ionization) for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), dibenzofurans (PBDFs), methoxylated PBDEs, and phenolic PBDE products.


The products formed were hexaBDEs to nonaBDEs, monoBDFs to pentaBDFs, and methoxylated tetraBDFs to pentaBDFs. The products found in the fraction containing halogenated phenols were assigned to be pentabromophenol, dihydroxytetrabromobenzene, dihydroxydibromodibenzofuran, dihydroxytribromodibenzofuran, and dihydroxytetrabromodibenzofuran. The PBDEs accounted for approximately 90% of the total amount of substances in each sample and the PBDFs for about 10%.


BDE-209 is a source of PBDEs primarily present in OctaBDEs but also to some extent in PentaBDEs, both being commercial products now banned within the EU and in several states within the USA. It is notable that OH-PBDFs have not been identified or indicated in any of the photolysis studies performed to date. Formation of OH-PBDFs, however, may occur as pure radical reactions in the atmosphere.


Photolysis of decaBDE yields a wide span of products, from nonaBDEs to hydroxylated bromobenzenes. It is evident that irradiation of decaBDE in water and methanol yields OH-PBDFs and MeO-PBDFs, respectively. BDE-202 (2,2′,3,3′,5,5′,6,6′-octabromodiphenyl ether) is identified as a marker of BDE-209 photolysis.

Recommendations and perspectives

BDE-209, the main constituent of DecaBDE, is primarily forming debrominated diphenyl ethers with higher persistence which are more bioaccumulative than the starting material when subjected to UV light. Hence, DecaBDE should be considered as a source of these PBDE congeners in the environment.


Chemical reactivity Photolysis Polybrominated dibenzofurans PBDFs Polybrominated diphenyl ethers PBDEs UV degradation 



We wish to thank Ioannis Athanassiadis for his skillful MS assistance and Maria Athanasiadou for valuable contribution regarding the set up of the study. This study was financed through the Swedish Research Council Formas and from the Swedish foundation for strategic environmental research (MISTRA) through the frame of the NewS program. Financial support was also gained through the European Community within the 6th framework program for research, technological development, and demonstration activities “FIRE” with the contract number QLRT-2001-00596.

Supplementary material

11356_2009_150_MOESM1_ESM.doc (612 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 611 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Christiansson
    • 1
  • Johan Eriksson
    • 1
  • Daniel Teclechiel
    • 1
  • Åke Bergman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ChemistryStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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