Flame retardants and plasticizers in a Canadian waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) dismantling facility

Stubbings WA, Nguyen LV, Romanak K, Jantunen L, Melymuk L, Arrandale VH, Diamond ML, Venier M. The Science of the total enviroment 2019 Jul 20;675:594-603.

Here we report on the concentrations of 79 flame retardants (FRs) and plasticizers, including 34 polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE congeners, 17 “novel” brominated FRs (NBFRs), 15 dechloranes, and 13 organophosphate esters (OPEs) in air (n = 9) and dust (n = 24) samples from an active waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) dismantling facility in Ontario, Canada, collected in February-March 2017. This is the first study of its kind in North America. The facility processes a range of WEEE including monitors, computers, printers, phones, and toys. Of the 79 target compounds, at least 60 were detected at a frequency of at least 50% in both air and dust. Dust and air concentrations were dominated by three compounds: BDE-209 (median 110,000 ng/g and 100 ng/m3, respectively), DBDPE (median 41,000 ng/g and 41 ng/m3), and TPhP (median 42,000 ng/g and 27 ng/m3). Levels of PBDEs, NBFRs, and dechloranes were close to two orders-of-magnitude higher in dust from the dismantling facility than in residential homes, while OPEs were one order-of-magnitude higher. Congener profiles of PBDEs indicated debromination of BDE-209. We calculated that a total mass of 44 ± 1 mg day-1 of 79 target analytes were released to air from WEEE processed in the dismantling hall and a further 270 ± 91 mg day-1 were released to dust. It is clear that WEEE dismantling facilities are a serious concern as a source of emissions for a wide range of FRs at relatively high concentrations to both workers and the immediate environment.