Particle Size Distribution of Halogenated Flame Retardants and Implications for Atmospheric Deposition and Transport

This study investigates the distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and a group of novel flame retardants (NFRs) on atmospheric aerosols. Two high volume cascade impactors were used to collect particulate fractions of ambient air over a one year period at urban and rural sites. The majority of FRs were found on the finest aerosols (<0.95 μm). Concentrations of HBCD were higher than those of ΣPBDEs. Moreover, we noted seasonality and spatial differences in particle size distributions, yet a large portion of the observed differences were due to differences in particulate matter (PM) itself. When normalized by PM, the size distributions of the FRs exhibited much greater heterogeneity. Differences existed between the FR distributions by molecular weight, with the higher molecular weight FRs (e.g., BDE-209, Dechlorane Plus) distributed more uniformly across all particulate size fractions. The seasonal, spatial, and compound-specific differences are of crucial importance when estimating dry and wet deposition of FRs as smaller aerosols have longer atmospheric residence times. Estimated wet and dry deposition of four representative FRs (BDE-47, BDE-209, HBCD, and Dechlorane Plus) using size-segregated aerosol data resulted in lower deposition estimates than when bulk aerosol data were used. This has implications for estimates of long-range atmospheric transport and atmospheric residence times, as it suggests that without size-specific distributions, these parameters could be underestimated for FRs.