A Mechanistic and Kinetic Study on the Formation of PBDD/Fs from PBDEs

This study presents a detailed mechanistic and kinetic investigation that explains the experimentally observed high yields of formation of polybrominated dibenzo-<i>p</i>-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PBDD/Fs) from the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), commonly deployed in brominated flame retardants (BFRs). Theoretical calculations involved the accurate meta hybrid functional of M05-2X. The previously suggested pathways of debromination and generation of bromophenols/bromophenoxys/bromobenzenes were found to be unimportant corridors for the formation of PBDD/Fs. A loss of an ortho Br or H atom from PBDEs, followed by a ring-closure reaction, is the most accessible pathway for the production of PBDFs via modest reaction barriers. The initially formed peroxy-type adduct (RO<sub>2</sub>) is found to evolve in a complex, nevertheless very exoergic, mechanism to produce PBDDs. Results indicate that, degree and pattern of bromination, in the vicinity of the ether oxygen bridge, has a minor influence on governing mechanisms and that even fully brominated isomers of BFRs are capable of forming PBDD/Fs. We thoroughly discuss bimolecular reactions of PBDEs with Br and H, as well as the Br-displacement reaction by triplet oxygen. The rate of the Br-displacement reaction significantly exceeds that of the unimolecular inititiation reactions due to loss of ortho Br or H. Results presented herein address conclusively the intriguing question of how PBDEs form PBDD/Fs, a matter that has been in the center of much debate among environmental chemists.