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Increasing polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) contamination in sediment cores from the inner Clyde Estuary, UK


The concentrations of 16 polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congeners in six short sediment cores from the Clyde Estuary were determined by gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry. Total PBDE concentrations ranged from 1 to 2,645 μg/kg and the average concentration was 287 μg/kg. BDE-209 was the main congener and varied from 1 to 2,337 μg/kg. Elevated total PBDE concentrations were observed close to the sediment surface in the uppermost 10 cm of four of the six sediment cores. Comparison of the down core PBDE profiles revealed that the increase was driven by the accumulation of deca-BDE. Although the deca-BDE mix was dominant, the presence of lower molecular weight congeners BDE-47, BDE-99, BDE-183 and BDE-153 at most sediment intervals suggested additional sources of penta-BDE and octa-BDE pollution. Changing PBDE source input was the major factor in influencing the proportion of nona-brominated congeners, although other explanations such as post burial photo-debromination of BDE-209 cannot be entirely discounted. A clear cascading to lower hepta-, hexa-, and penta-homologues was not found. The increase in total PBDE concentrations and particularly the deca-BDE may possibly be ascribed to the use and subsequent disposal of electrical appliances such as televisions and computers. In the Clyde sediments, the proportion of nona-brominated congeners was higher than that reported for commercial mixtures. This might be due to changing sources of PBDEs or post burial photo-debromination of BDE-209.

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Sincere appreciation is expressed to the staff at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and particularly captain Hugh Anderson and technicians John Derrick and James Glendinning of the SEPA vessel ‘Endrick II’. We also thank BGS staff J. Ridgway, T. R. Lister and M. H. Strutt for core collection. Nigel Birch at the British Consulate-General, Guangzhou provided logistic support to C. H. Vane during two visits to Guangzhou in 2006–2007. This paper was published by permission of the Executive Director, British Geological Survey.

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Correspondence to Christopher H. Vane.

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Vane, C.H., Ma, YJ., Chen, SJ. et al. Increasing polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) contamination in sediment cores from the inner Clyde Estuary, UK. Environ Geochem Health 32, 13–21 (2010).

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  • River Clyde
  • Sediment
  • Flame retardant
  • Estuarine contamination
  • Persistent organic pollutant (POPs)