Brominated flame retardants in offices in Michigan, U.S.A.


Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are now ubiquitous contaminants with large reservoirs and high concentrations in buildings. Most of the information documenting BFR levels has been obtained in residences, and other environments that can lead to exposure have received relatively little attention, including offices that contain numerous BFR sources and where individuals spend considerable time. The aim of this study is to characterize BFR concentrations, potential emission sources, and migration pathways in office environments. We measure BFR levels in floor dust, indoor air, ventilation filter dust, and carpets in ten commercial and institutional buildings in Michigan, U.S.A. The median concentration of total BDEs in settled dust was 8754ngg-1, at the upper range of levels previously reported. Especially elevated levels were found in offices in buildings that contained known or likely BFR sources, e.g., computer servers. A trends analysis in a newly constructed building showed remarkable increases in concentrations of BFRs in settled dust and indoor air, and apparent steady-state levels were reached 5 to 8months after building completion, a particularly striking finding given that the building was constructed and furnished several years after the voluntary phase-out of the penta- and octa-mixtures. Airborne particulate matter collected in a building's HVAC system filters contained PBDEs, including BDE-209, at levels exceeding the concentration of floor dust. In conjunction with estimates of building air flow rates, filter efficiency and other parameters, mass balance calculations for this building were used to estimate the emission rates and reservoirs of PBDEs. The widespread distribution of BFRs found in offices in both new and old buildings suggests the significance of workplace exposures, the need for controls to minimize human exposure, intra-building migration, and environmental releases of these chemicals, and the need for monitoring in new buildings to confirm the effectiveness of the PBDE phase-out. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Publication Title

Environment International