Trends of brominated diphenyl ethers in fresh and archived Great Lakes fish (1979-2005)


While few environmental measurements of brominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs) were completed prior to the mid-1990s, analysis of appropriately archived samples might enable the determination of contaminant trends back to the introduction of these chemicals. In this paper, we first investigate the stability of BDEs in archived frozen and extracted fish samples, and then characterize trends of these chemicals in rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in each of the Great Lakes between 1979 and 2005. We focus on the four most common congeners (BDE-47, 100, 99 and 153) and use a change-point analysis to detect shifts in trends. Analyses of archived fish samples yielded precise BDE concentration measurements with only small losses (0.8% per year in frozen fish tissues, 2.2% per year in refrigerated extracts). Trends in fish from all Great Lakes showed large increases in BDE concentrations that started in the early to mid-1980s with fairly consistent doubling times (generally 2-4 years except in Lake Erie smelt where levels increased very slowly), though concentrations and trends show differences by congener, fish species and lake. The most recent data show that accumulation rates are slowing, and concentrations of penta- and hexa-congeners in trout from Lakes Ontario and Michigan and smelt from Lake Ontario started to decrease in the mid-1990s. Trends in smelt and trout are evolving somewhat differently, and trout concentrations in the five lakes are now ranked as Michigan > Superior = Ontario > Huron = Erie, and smelt concentrations as Michigan > Ontario > Huron > Superior > Erie. The analysis of properly archived samples permits the reconstruction of historical trends, congener distributions, biomagnification and other information that can aid the understanding and management of these contaminants. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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