Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 1020–1033 | Cite as

Distribution of metals and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in sediments, soils and plants from an informal e-waste dismantling site, South China

  • Junxia Wang
  • Lili Liu
  • Jinfu Wang
  • Bishu Pan
  • Xiaoxu Fu
  • Gang Zhang
  • Long Zhang
  • Kuangfei Lin
Research Article


Brominated flame retardants (BFRs, including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA)) and metals (Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd, Ni, Hg and As) in sediments, soils and herb plants from unregulated e-waste disposal sites were examined. The metal concentrations, ∑PBDE and TBBPA concentrations in all samples from the examined e-waste dismantling sites were relatively high in comparison with those of rural and urban areas around the world. The PBDE and TBBPA levels in soils significantly decreased with increasing distance from the e-waste dismantling sites, indicating that PBDEs and TBBPA had similar transport potential from the e-waste dismantling process as a point source to the surrounding region. BDE-209 and TBBPA predominated in all samples, which is consistent with the evidence that the deca-BDE and TBBPA commercial mixtures were extensively used in electronic products. Metals, PBDEs and TBBPA displayed significant positive correlations with TOC, whereas the correlations with pH were insignificant, indicating that TOC was a major factor governing the spatial distribution, transportation and fate in sediments and soils. A significant relationship between log-transformed metals and BFR concentrations indicated common pollution sources. Moreover, cluster analysis and principal component analysis further confirmed that the metals and BFRs had a common source, and penta- and deca-BDE commercial products may be two sources of PBDEs in this region.


Metals Brominated flame retardants e-Waste Transport Soils Plants 



We thank Christal Oliver for English language editing. This work was financially supported by the National Environmental Protection Public Welfare Science and Technology Research Program of China (No. 201309047)

Supplementary material

11356_2014_3399_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.6 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 1689 kb)


  1. Bayen S (2012) Occurrence, bioavailability and toxic effects of trace metals and organic contaminants in mangrove ecosystems: a review. Environ Int 48:84–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bi X, Feng X, Yang Y, Li X, Shin GP, Li F, Qiu G, Li G, Liu T, Fu Z (2009) Allocation and source attribution of lead and cadmium in maize (Zea mays L.) impacted by smelting emissions. Environ Pollut 157(3):834–839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Birnbaum LS, Staskal DF (2004) Brominated flame retardants: cause for concern? Environ Health Perspect 112(1):9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bradl HB (2004) Adsorption of heavy metal ions on soils and soils constituents. J Colloid Interface Sci 277(1):1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen L, Yu C, Shen C, Zhang C, Liu L, Shen K, Tang X, Chen Y (2010) Study on adverse impact of e-waste disassembly on surface sediment in East China by chemical analysis and bioassays. J Soils Sediments 10(3):359–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen SJ, Feng AH, He MJ, Chen MY, Luo XJ, Mai BX (2013) Current levels and composition profiles of PBDEs and alternative flame retardants in surface sediments from the Pearl River Delta, southern China: comparison with historical data. Sci Total Environ 444:205–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. CNEMC (1990) The background values of chinese soils. China National Environmental Monitoring Centre. Environmental Science Press of China, Beijing, p 501Google Scholar
  8. De Wit CA, Alaee M, Muir DC (2006) Levels and trends of brominated flame retardants in the Arctic. Chemosphere 64(2):209–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Equeenuddin SM, Tripathy S, Sahoo P, Panigrahi M (2013) Metal behavior in sediment associated with acid mine drainage stream: role of pH. J Geochem Explor 124:230–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fu J, Zhou Q, Liu J, Liu W, Wang T, Zhang Q, Jiang G (2008) High levels of heavy metals in rice (Oryza sativa L.) from a typical E-waste recycling area in southeast China and its potential risk to human health. Chemosphere 71(7):1269–1275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fujimori T, Takigami H (2014) Pollution distribution of heavy metals in surface soil at an informal electronic-waste recycling site. Environ Geochem Health 36(1):159–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gao S, Hong J, Yu Z, Wang J, Yang G, Sheng G, Fu J (2011) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in surface soils from e-waste recycling areas and industrial areas in South China: concentration levels, congener profile, and inventory. Environ Toxicol Chem 30(12):2688–2696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gouin T, Harner T (2003) Modelling the environmental fate of the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Environ Int 29(6):717–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harrad S, Abdallah MA-E, Rose NL, Turner SD, Davidson TA (2010) Current-use brominated flame retardants in water, sediment, and fish from english lakes. Environ Sci Technol 44(13):5318–5318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hassanin A, Johnston A, Thomas GO, Jones KC (2005) Time trends of atmospheric PBDEs inferred from archived UK herbage. Environ Sci Technol 39(8):2436–2441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. He MJ, Luo XJ, Yu LH, Liu J, Zhang XL, Chen SJ, Chen D, Mai BX (2010) Tetrabromobisphenol-A and hexabromocyclododecane in birds from an e-waste region in South China: influence of diet on diastereoisomer-and enantiomer-specific distribution and trophodynamics. Environ Sci Technol 44(15):5748–5754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Klosterhaus SL, Stapleton HM, La Guardia MJ, Greig DJ (2012) Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants in San Francisco Bay sediments and wildlife. Environ Int 47:56–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kuramochi H, Kawamoto K, Miyazaki K, Nagahama K, Maeda K, Li XW, Shibata E, Nakamura T, Sakai S (2008) Determination of physicochemical properties of tetrabromobisphenol A. Environ Toxicol Chem 27(12):2413–2418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. La Guardia MJ, Hale RC, Harvey E (2006) Detailed polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congener composition of the widely used penta-, octa-, and deca-PBDE technical flame-retardant mixtures. Environ Sci Technol 40(20):6247–6254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Leung A, Cai ZW, Wong MH (2006) Environmental contamination from electronic waste recycling at Guiyu, southeast China. J Mater Cycles Waste Manag 8(1):21–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leung AO, Luksemburg WJ, Wong AS, Wong MH (2007) Spatial distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans in soil and combusted residue at Guiyu, an electronic waste recycling site in southeast China. Environ Sci Technol 41(8):2730–2737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Li J, Duan H, Shi P (2011a) Heavy metal contamination of surface soil in electronic waste dismantling area: site investigation and source-apportionment analysis. Waste Manag Res 29(7):727–738CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Li H, Bai J, Li Y, Cheng H, Zeng EY, You J (2011b) Short-range transport of contaminants released from e-waste recycling site in South China. J Environ Monit 13(4):836–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Liu M, Huang B, Bi X, Ren Z, Sheng G, Fu J (2013) Heavy metals and organic compounds contamination in soil from an e-waste region in South China. Environ Sci Process Impacts 15(5):919–929CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Luo Y, Luo XJ, Lin Z, Chen SJ, Liu J, Mai BX, Yang ZY (2009) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in road and farmland soils from an e-waste recycling region in Southern China: concentrations, source profiles, and potential dispersion and deposition. Sci Total Environ 407(3):1105–1113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Luo C, Liu C, Wang Y, Liu X, Li F, Zhang G, Li X (2011) Heavy metal contamination in soils and vegetables near an e-waste processing site, south China. J Hazard Mater 186(1):481–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Luo Q, Wong MH, Wang Z, Cai Z (2013) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in combusted residues and soils from an open burning site of electronic wastes. Environ Earth Sci 69(8):2633–2641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ma J, Addink R, Yun S, Cheng J, Wang W, Kannan K (2009) Polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in soil, vegetation, workshop-floor dust, and electronic shredder residue from an electronic waste recycling facility and in soils from a chemical industrial complex in eastern China. Environ Sci Technol 43(19):7350–7356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Minh NH, Isobe T, Ueno D, Matsumoto K, Mine M, Kajiwara N, Takahashi S, Tanabe S (2007) Spatial distribution and vertical profile of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and hexabromocyclododecanes in sediment core from Tokyo Bay, Japan. Environ Pollut 148(2):409–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morris S, Allchin CR, Zegers BN, Haftka JJH, Boon JP, Belpaire C, Leonards PEG, van Leeuwen SPJ, de Boer J (2004) Distribution and fate of HBCD and TBBPA brominated flame retardants in North Sea estuaries and aquatic food webs. Environ Sci Technol 38(21):5497–5504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mueller KE, Mueller-Spitz SR, Henry HF, Vonderheide AP, Soman RS, Kinkle BK, Shann JR (2006) Fate of pentabrominated diphenyl ethers in soil: abiotic sorption, plant uptake, and the impact of interspecific plant interactions. Environ Sci Technol 40(21):6662–6667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ni HG, Zeng H, Tao S, Zeng EY (2010) Environmental and human exposure to persistent halogenated compounds derived from e-waste in China. Environ Toxicol Chem 29(6):1237–1247Google Scholar
  33. Nyholm JR, Lundberg C, Andersson PL (2010) Biodegradation kinetics of selected brominated flame retardants in aerobic and anaerobic soil. Environ Pollut 158(6):2235–2240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Robinson BH (2009) E-waste: an assessment of global production and environmental impacts. Sci Total Environ 408(2):183–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sánchez-Brunete C, Miguel E, Tadeo JL (2009) Determination of tetrabromobisphenol-A, tetrachlorobisphenol-A and bisphenol-A in soil by ultrasonic assisted extraction and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. J Chromatogr A 1216(29):5497–5503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. SEPA (1995) Environmental quality standards for soils (GB15618-1995). State Environmental Protection Administration of China, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  37. Shepherd KD, Walsh MG (2002) Development of reflectance spectral libraries for characterization of soil properties. Soil Sci Soc Am J 66(3):988–998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sjödin A, Patterson DG Jr, Bergman Å (2003) A review on human exposure to brominated flame retardants-particularly polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Environ Int 29(6):829–839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tang X, Shen C, Shi D, Cheema SA, Khan MI, Zhang C, Chen Y (2010) Heavy metal and persistent organic compound contamination in soil from Wenling: an emerging e-waste recycling city in Taizhou area, China. J Hazard Mater 173(1):653–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tang J, Feng J, Li X, Li G (2014) Levels of flame retardants HBCD, TBBPA and TBC in surface soils from an industrialized region of East China. Environ Sci Process Impacts 16(5):1015–1021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tittlemier SA, Halldorson T, Stern GA, Tomy GT (2002) Vapor pressures, aqueous solubilities, and Henry’s law constants of some brominated flame retardants. Environ Toxicol Chem 21(9):1804–1810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. VROM (2001) The new dutch list. Intervention values and target values: soil quality standards. Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment, Department of Soil Protection, The Hague, NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  43. Wang J, Lin Z, Lin K, Wang C, Zhang W, Cui C, Lin J, Dong Q, Huang C (2011) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in water, sediment, soil, and biological samples from different industrial areas in Zhejiang, China. J Hazard Mater 197:211–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang S, Zhang S, Huang H, Niu Z, Han W (2014) Characterization of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hydroxylated and methoxylated PBDEs in soils and plants from an e-waste area, China. Environ Pollut 184:405–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Watanabe I, Sakai S-i (2003) Environmental release and behavior of brominated flame retardants. Environ Int 29(6):665–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wong M, Wu S, Deng W, Yu X, Luo Q, Leung A, Wong C, Luksemburg W, Wong A (2007) Export of toxic chemicals—a review of the case of uncontrolled electronic-waste recycling. Environ Pollut 149(2):131–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Xiao J (2006) A perspective on the development of brominated flame retardants in ChinaGoogle Scholar
  48. Xie Z, Ebinghaus R, Lohmann R, Heemken O, Caba A, Püttmann W (2007) Trace determination of the flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol A in the atmosphere by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Anal Chim Acta 584(2):333–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yang S, Wang S, Liu H, Yan Z (2012) Tetrabromobisphenol A: tissue distribution in fish, and seasonal variation in water and sediment of Lake Chaohu, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19(9):4090–4096CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yao Z, Li J, Zhao X (2013) Destruction of decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) in a ternary carbonate molten salt reactor. J Environ Manag 127:244–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zhang XL, Luo XJ, Chen SJ, Wu JP, Mai BX (2009) Spatial distribution and vertical profile of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, tetrabromobisphenol A, and decabromodiphenylethane in river sediment from an industrialized region of South China. Environ Pollut 157(6):1917–1923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhang Q, Ye J, Chen J, Xu H, Wang C, Zhao M (2014) Risk assessment of polychlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals in soils of an abandoned e-waste site in China. Environ Pollut 185:258–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhao YX, Qin XF, Li Y, Liu PY, Tian M, Yan SS, Qin ZF, Xu XB, Yang YJ (2009) Diffusion of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) from an e-waste recycling area to the surrounding regions in Southeast China. Chemosphere 76(11):1470–1476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhou P, Lin K, Zhou X, Zhang W, Huang K, Liu L, Guo J, Xu F (2012) Distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the surface sediments of the Taihu Lake, China. Chemosphere 88(11):1375–1382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhou X, Guo J, Lin K, Huang K, Deng J (2013) Leaching characteristics of heavy metals and brominated flame retardants from waste printed circuit boards. J Hazard Mater 246:96–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhou X, Guo J, Zhang W, Zhou P, Deng J, Lin K (2014) Tetrabromobisphenol A contamination and emission in printed circuit board production and implications for human exposure. J Hazard Mater 273:27–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zou MY, Ran Y, Gong J, Mai BX, Zeng EY (2007) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in watershed soils of the Pearl River Delta, China: occurrence, inventory, and fate. Environ Sci Technol 41(24):8262–8267CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Junxia Wang
    • 1
  • Lili Liu
    • 1
  • Jinfu Wang
    • 2
  • Bishu Pan
    • 2
  • Xiaoxu Fu
    • 1
  • Gang Zhang
    • 1
  • Long Zhang
    • 1
  • Kuangfei Lin
    • 1
  1. 1.State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Environmental Risk Assessment and Control on Chemical Process, School of Resources and Environmental EngineeringEast China University of Science and TechnologyShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Taizhou Municipal Center for Diseases Control and PreventionTaizhouChina

Personalised recommendations