Formal waste treatment facilities as a source of halogenated flame retardants and organophosphate esters to the environment: A critical review with particular focus on outdoor air and soil


Extensive use of halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) and organophosphate esters (OPEs) has generated great concern about their adverse effects on environmental and ecological safety and human health. As well as emissions during use of products containing such chemicals, there are mounting concerns over emissions when such products reach the waste stream. Here, we review the available data on contamination with HFRs and OPEs arising from formal waste treatment facilities (including but not limited to e-waste recycling, landfill, and incinerators). Evidence of the transfer of HFRs and OPEs from products to the environment shows that it occurs via mechanisms such as: volatilisation, abrasion, and leaching. Higher contaminant vapour pressure, increased temperature, and elevated concentrations of HFRs and OPEs in products contribute greatly to their emissions to air, with highest emission rates usually observed in the early stages of test chamber experiments. Abrasion of particles and fibres from products is ubiquitous and likely to contribute to elevated FR concentrations in soil. Leaching to aqueous media of brominated FRs (BFRs) is likely to be a second-order process, with elevated dissolved humic matter and temperature of leaching fluids likely to facilitate such emissions. However, leaching characteristics of OPEs are less well-understood and require further investigation. Data on the occurrence of HFRs and OPEs in outdoor air and soil in the vicinity of formal e-waste treatment facilities suggests such facilities exert a considerable impact. Waste dumpsites and landfills constitute a potential source of HFRs and OPEs to soil, and improper management of waste disposal might also contribute to HFR contamination in ambient air. Current evidence suggests minimal impact of waste incineration plants on BFR contamination in outdoor air and soil, but further investigation is required to confirm this.

Authors: Yulong Ma, William A Stubbings, Mohamed Abou-Elwafa Abdallah, Reginald Cline-Cole, Stuart Harrad
; Full Source: The Science of the total environment 2021 Oct 5;807(Pt 1):150747. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150747.