Levels, distributions, and ecological risk assessments of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and alternative flame retardants in river sediments from Vaal River, South Africa

  • Tlou B. ChokweEmail author
  • Makhosazane N. Magubane
  • Ovokeroye A. Abafe
  • Jonathan O. Okonkwo
  • Innocentia V. Sibiya
Research Article


Sediments are known to be the ultimate sink for most pollutants in the aquatic environment. In this study, the concentrations of both legacy polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and alternative halogenated flame retardants (AHFRs) were measured in sediments samples from the Vaal River catchment. The concentrations of Σ7BDE-congeners ranged from 20 to 78 ng g−1 dry weight (dw) with BDE-209, -99, and -153 as the dominant congeners. The concentrations observed ranged from 9.4–56, 4–32, and 1–10.6 ng g−1 for BDE-209, -99, and -153, respectively. The concentrations of AHFRs, mainly contributed by decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) at approximately 95% of total AHFRs, ranged from 64 to 359 ng g−1 dw while the concentration of polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), mainly PBB-209, ranged from 3.3–7.1 ng g−1 dw. The ratios of AHFRs to PBDEs observed in this study were 0.76, 1.17, and 7.3 for 2-ethyl-1-hexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate and bis-(2-ethylhexyl)-tetrabromophthalate (EH-TBB & BEH-TEBP)/penta-BDE; 1,2-bis-(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy) ethane (BTBPE)/octa-BDE; and DBDPE/BDE209, respectively. These results indicate dominance of some AHFRs compared to PBDEs. Our results indicates that BDE-99 poses high risk (RQ > 1) while BDE-209 posed medium risk (0.1 < RQ < 1). Though the concentration of DBDPE was several orders of magnitude higher than BDE209, its ecological risk was found to be negligible (RQ < 0.01). Thus, more attention is required to regulate the input (especially the e-waste recycling sites) of brominated flame retardants into the environment.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers Alternative halogenated flame retardants Sediments Ecological risk Vaal River 



The authors would like to gratefully thank Rand Water- Analytical Services for providing a technical environment and funding of the project as well as Mr. SM Mporetji for sediments collection.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_4063_MOESM1_ESM.docx (540 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 540 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rand Water Scientific ServicesVereenigingRepublic of South Africa
  2. 2.Agricultural Research Council –OVRPretoriaRepublic of South Africa
  3. 3.Department of Water, Environmental and Earth SciencesTshwane University of TechnologyPretoriaRepublic of South Africa

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