Researchers from Indiana University, US, have measured high levels of organophosphate (OP) flame retardants in the Great Lakes atmosphere at concentrations of up to three times greater than those of brominated flame retardants.
The use of OP esters has increased in the past decade as manufacturers have used them to replace brominated flame retardants, phased out because of environmental and health concerns. However, there are also concerns over health effects of some of the OP flame retardants. For example, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in the US is seeking information on tris-(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (chlorinated Tris, TDCPP) for future editions of its Report on Carcinogens (CW 23 September 2013).
The scientists measured levels of 12 organophosphate flame retardants, including tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), tris(1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TCPP), and TDCPP, at five sites in the North American Great Lakes basin. At the urban sites, chlorinated OPs dominated, while non-halogenated OP compounds were major contributors to total OP concentrations at remote sites.
The fact that OPs appear to travel to remote areas and to remain for longer than expected raises important questions about their persistence in the environment. Last year, scientists identified OP flame retardants in UK city air (CW 31 October 2012).
The study will be published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters.