Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) in the Arctic environment

Updated 2000-10-09

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent and lipophilic compounds used as flame retardants in electronic equipment, plastic material and synthetic fibbers among other things. The PBDEs are mainly used as Deca-BDE and Bromokal 70-5DE, a mixture of tetra-, penta- and hexa-BDE. Due to its chemical and physical properties PBDEs, especially TeBDEs, tend to bioaccumulate. PBDEs were first reported in sediments in USA, and in fish from a Swedish river. More recently PBDEs have also been reported in seals, birds, mussels, whales and humans. In this study an SFE-method for rapid analysis of PBDEs in marine mammals was developed. This method was used to determinate the concentrations of these environmental pollutants in Pilot Whale samples caught in the Faroe Islands, Beluga Whales from the Arctic and Polar Bears from Svalbard. Using this method several PBDEs were analysed in the different species. In addition methoxylated PBDEs (Me-O-PBDE) were identified by interpretation of the different mass spectra’s. Of the 209 theoretical possible congeners only a few PBDE seem to accumulate in the environment. Accumulation of PBDE is related to the different chemical properties of the molecule. With the help of multivariate characterisation of a compound class using semi-empirical molecular orbital calculations, literature data and actual experimental measurements, the behaviour of PBDE in the environment can be modelled and predicted. Such models are essential in order to gain more insight in the behaviour of PBDE in the environment.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Terminated before completion
Project time span
1996 -
Data collection
1996 -
Data processing
1996 -
Data reporting
1996 -

Contact information

Contact person
Bert van Bavel
Environmental Chemistry Department of Chemistry Umeå University SE-901 87 Umeå Sweden
+46 90 786 6818
+46 90 128133

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Freshwater sediments
Marine mammals
Terrestrial mammals


Regions studied
Arctic Seas
Faeroe Islands

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
If no (or only part of data are reported to a TDC), where and how are (other) data stored?
Scientific publications and on request.
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
1. Identification of 19 polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, in long-finned pilot whale (Glogicephale melas). Gunilla Lindström, Håkan Wingfors, Maria Dam and Bert van Bavel. Arch. Of Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 36 (1999) 355-363 2. Supercritical fluid extraction of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, from long finned pilot whale (Globicephala Melas) from the Atlantic. Bert van Bavel, Erika Sundelin, Johanna Lillbäck, Maria Dam and Gunilla Lindström. Organohalogen Compounds 40 1999 359-362. 3. Postnatal Transfer of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE), in Juvenile Long-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas) in the Atlantic - A Fatal Legacy. Gunilla Lindström, Maria Dam, Erika Sundelin and Bert van Bavel. Organohalogen Compounds 43 (1999) 77-81.
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Not specified

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
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