Environment international

Morphology, spatial distribution, and concentration of flame retardants in consumer products and environmental dusts using scanning electron microscopy and Raman micro-spectroscopy.

PMID 23739093


We characterized flame retardant (FR) morphologies and spatial distributions in 7 consumer products and 7 environmental dusts to determine their implications for transfer mechanisms, human exposure, and the reproducibility of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) dust measurements. We characterized individual particles using scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) and Raman micro-spectroscopy (RMS). Samples were screened for the presence of 3 FR constituents (bromine, phosphorous, non-salt chlorine) and 2 metal synergists (antimony and bismuth). Subsequent analyses of select samples by RMS enabled molecular identification of the FR compounds and matrix materials. The consumer products and dust samples possessed FR elemental weight percents of up to 36% and 31%, respectively. We identified 24 FR-containing particles in the dust samples and classified them into 9 types based on morphology and composition. We observed a broad range of morphologies for these FR-containing particles, suggesting FR transfer to dust via multiple mechanisms. We developed an equation to describe the heterogeneity of FR-containing particles in environmental dust samples. The number of individual FR-containing particles expected in a 1-mg dust sample with a FR concentration of 100ppm ranged from <1 to >1000 particles. The presence of rare, high-concentration bromine particles was correlated with decabromodiphenyl ether concentrations obtained via GC-MS. When FRs are distributed heterogeneously in highly concentrated dust particles, human exposure to FRs may be characterized by high transient exposures interspersed by periods of low exposure, and GC-MS FR concentrations may exhibit large variability in replicate subsamples. Current limitations of this SEM/EDS technique include potential false negatives for volatile and chlorinated FRs and greater quantitation uncertainty for brominated FR in aluminum-rich matrices.