From Clothing to Laundry Water: Investigating the Fate of Phthalates, Brominated Flame Retardants, and Organophosphate Esters

The accumulation of phthalate esters, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and organophosphate esters (OPEs) by clothing from indoor air and transfer via laundering to outdoors were investigated. Over 30 days cotton and polyester fabrics accumulated 3475 and 1950 ng/dm<sup>2</sup> ∑<sub>5</sub>phthalates, 65 and 78 ng/dm<sup>2</sup> ∑<sub>10</sub>BFRs, and 1200 and 310 ng/dm<sup>2</sup> ∑<sub>8</sub>OPEs, respectively. Planar surface area concentrations of OPEs and low molecular weight phthalates were significantly greater in cotton than polyester and similar for BFRs and high molecular weight phthalates. This difference was significantly and inversely correlated with <i>K</i><sub>OW</sub>, suggesting greater sorption of polar compounds to polar cotton. Chemical release from cotton and polyester to laundry water was >80% of aliphatic OPEs (log <i>K</i><sub>OW</sub> < 4), < 50% of OPEs with an aromatic structure, 50–100% of low molecular weight phthalates (log <i>K</i><sub>OW</sub> 4–6), and < detection–35% of higher molecular weight phthalates (log <i>K</i><sub>OW</sub> > 8) and BFRs (log <i>K</i><sub>OW</sub> > 6). These results support the hypothesis that clothing acts an efficient conveyer of soluble semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) from indoors to outdoors through accumulation from air and then release during laundering. Clothes drying could as well contribute to the release of chemicals emitted by electric dryers. The results also have implications for dermal exposure.