Screening for halogenated flame retardants in European consumer products, building materials and wastes

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To fulfill national and international fire safety standards, flame retardants (FRs) are being added to a wide range of consumer products and building materials consisting of flammable materials like plastic, wood and textiles. While the FR composition of some products and materials has been identified in recent years, the limited global coverage of the data and the large diversity in consumer products necessitates more information for an overall picture of the FR composition in common products/materials. To address this issue, 137 individual samples of various consumer products, building materials and wastes were collected. To identify and characterize potential sources of FRs in indoor environment, all samples were analyzed for content of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) and novel flame retardants (NFRs). The most frequently detected were HBCDDs (85%), with the highest median concentration of Σ4HBCDDs of 300 mg kg−1 in polystyrenes. The highest median concentration of Σ10PBDEs was found in recycled plastic materials, reaching 4 mg kg−1. The lowest concentrations were observed for NFRs, where the median of Σ12NFRs reached 0.4 mg kg−1 in the group of electrical & electronic equipment wastes. This suggests that for consumer products and building materials that are currently in-use, legacy compounds still contribute to the overall burden of FRs. Additionally, contrasting patterns of FR composition in recycled and virgin plastics, revealed using principle component analysis (PCA), suggest that legacy flame retardants are reentering the market through recycled products, perpetuating the potential for emissions to indoor environments and thus for human exposure.

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