Understanding Brominated Contaminants - PBDE, HBCD, TBBPA, PBDD/F, PBBs

March 27th, 2024 in Pond's Pondering

Understanding Brominated Contaminants: Sources and Testing Methods


Brominated contaminants, as you can likely guess, refer to a group of environmental organic contaminants with Bromine in their structure. They are used in various industries for their flame-retardant properties and are almost as ubiquitous as PFAS in our homes.  Many are persistent organic pollutants and can bioaccumulate leading to health risks and toxicity. In this blog post, we'll delve into some common brominated contaminants, including PBDEs, HBCD, brominated dioxins, and PBBs.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
PBDEs are flame retardants used in a wide range of products, including electronics, furniture, and textiles. They are present throughout our homes due to their wide use, and persistent in the environment.  Exposure to PBDEs has been linked to adverse health effects, including developmental, neurological, and reproductive effects.

PRL analyzes for a suite of PBDEs using a method based on EPA 1614A which can be tailored for water, soil, tissue, stack and more - learn more here.

Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and Tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA)
HBCD and TBBPA are another two flame retardants used in a wide range of materials - both are persistent and bioaccumulative, meaning they can build up in the environment and organisms over time. HBCD has been found in the environment, wildlife, and human tissues. Exposure to HBCD has been associated with health effects such as thyroid disruption and neurotoxicity.  TBBPA has less conclusive studies regarding exposure and adverse effects.

PRL analyzes for HBCD and TBBPA using a specific LC-MS/MS method.

Brominated Dioxins
Brominated dioxins are part of the dioxin family, which are highly toxic and persistent organic pollutants. They can form as byproducts of industrial processes, waste incineration, and other combustion processes - similar to how chlorinated dioxins can form, brominated dioxins would just need a bromine source rather than a chlorine source in similar circumstances. Brominated dioxins are similar in structure and toxicity to their chlorinated counterparts and pose similar health risks.

PRL uses a modified version of our chlorinated dioxin method to analyze for a suite of brominated dioxins to ultra-trace levels using GC-HRMS.

Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs)
PBBs are flame retardants used in plastics, paints, and textiles. They are persistent and can accumulate in the environment and organisms. PBBs have been linked to health effects such as thyroid disorders, reproductive issues, and neurotoxicity.  Similar to PCBs in many ways, replace the chlorines with bromines.

PRL tests for some PBBs as part of our PBDE screen, and can also tests separately for homolog totals of different classes and and more comprehensive list of congeners.

Testing Methods
Pacific Rim Laboratories offers testing for brominated contaminants using ultra-trace methods to help our customers source and solve their contamination.  Our team can adapt to essentially any type of matrix and have done studies on water, soils, pharmaceuticals and food but also on samples of plastics, incinerators, cement kilns and more.  Contact us to learn more!

Brominated contaminants pose significant environmental and health risks due to their persistence and toxicity. Understanding their sources and implementing robust testing methods is essential for mitigating these risks and protecting human health and the environment.  As regulations tighten around these contaminants, robust and effective testing methods are needed and PRL can help with our years of experience