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Distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and dust particle size fractions adherent to skin in indoor dust, Pretoria, South Africa


In order to determine human exposure to the indoor toxicant, selection of dust fraction and understanding dust particle size distribution in settled indoor dust are very important. This study examined the influence of dust particle size on the concentration of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) congeners, assessed the distribution of dust particle size and characterized the main indoor emission sources of PBDEs. Accordingly, the concentrations of PBDE congeners determined in different indoor dust fractions were found to be relatively higher in the order of dust particle size: 45–106 μm > (<45 μm) > 106–150 μm. The finding shows arbitrary selection of dust fractions for exposure determination may result in wrong conclusions. Statistically significant moderate correlation between the concentration of Σ9PBDEs and organic matter content calculated with respect to the total dust mass was also observed (r = 0.55, p = 0.001). On average, of total dust particle size <250 μm, 93.4 % (m/m%) of dust fractions was associated with less than 150 μm. Furthermore, of skin adherent dust fractions considered (<150 μm), 86 % (v/v%) is in the range of particle size 9.25–104.7 μm. Electronic materials treated with PBDEs were found the main emission sources of PBDE congeners in indoor environment. Based on concentrations of PBDEs determined and mass of indoor dust observed, 150 μm metallic sieve is adequate for human exposure risk assessment. However, research in this area is very limited and more research is required to generalize the fact.

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The authors are thankful to Tshwane University of Technology for all the research fund and instrumental facilities.

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Correspondence to Kebede Keterew Kefeni.

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Responsible editor: Constantini Samara

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Kefeni, K.K., Okonkwo, J.O. Distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and dust particle size fractions adherent to skin in indoor dust, Pretoria, South Africa. Environ Sci Pollut Res 21, 4376–4386 (2014).

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  • PBDE
  • Particle size
  • Settled indoor dust
  • Organic matter content
  • PBDE emission source
  • Adherent fraction