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Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in background air around the Aegean: implications for phase partitioning and size distribution


The occurrence and atmospheric behavior of tri- to deca-polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were investigated during a 2-week campaign concurrently conducted in July 2012 at four background sites around the Aegean Sea. The study focused on the gas/particle (G/P) partitioning at three sites (Ag. Paraskevi/central Greece/suburban, Finokalia/southern Greece/remote coastal, and Urla/Turkey/rural coastal) and on the size distribution at two sites (Neochorouda/northern Greece/rural inland and Finokalia/southern Greece/remote coastal). The lowest mean total (G + P) concentrations of ∑7PBDE (BDE-28, BDE-47, BDE-66, BDE-99, BDE-100, BDE-153, BDE-154) and BDE-209 (0.81 and 0.95 pg m−3, respectively) were found at the remote site Finokalia. Partitioning coefficients, K P, were calculated, and their linear relationships with ambient temperature and the physicochemical properties of the analyzed PBDE congeners, i.e., the subcooled liquid pressure (P L°) and the octanol-air partition coefficient (K OA), were investigated. The equilibrium adsorption (P L°-based) and absorption (K OA-based) models, as well as a steady-state absorption model including an equilibrium and a non-equilibrium term, both being functions of log K OA, were used to predict the fraction Φ of PBDEs associated with the particle phase. The steady-state model proved to be superior to predict G/P partitioning of BDE-209. The distribution of particle-bound PBDEs across size fractions < 0.95, 0.95–1.5, 1.5–3.0, 3.0–7.2, and > 7.2 μm indicated a positive correlation between the mass median aerodynamic diameter and log P L° for the less brominated congeners, whereas a negative correlation was observed for the high brominated congeners. The potential source regions of PBDEs were acknowledged as a combination of long-range transport with short-distance sources.

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We thank John Manousis (Region of Central Macedonia) and John Douros (AUTH) for meteorological data and data analysis; John Manousis, Jiři Kohoutek, Christos Efstathiou, and Roman Prokeš (MU) for on-site support; Petra Pribylová and Lenka Vanková (MU) and Mustafa Odabasi (DEU) for chemical analyses and laboratory support; and Pourya Shahpoury (MPI) for discussion.


This research was supported by the Granting Agency of the Czech Republic (project No. 312334), the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (LO1214 and LM2015051), the Izmir Institute of Technology Scientific Research Foundation (2013İYTE14), and the European Union FP7 (No. 262254 ACTRIS).

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Correspondence to Athanasios Besis.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Besis, A., Lammel, G., Kukučka, P. et al. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in background air around the Aegean: implications for phase partitioning and size distribution. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 28102–28120 (2017).

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  • Absorption/adsorption models
  • Gas/particle partitioning
  • Long-range transport
  • Aerosol mass size distribution