Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Fargo, North Dakota » Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center » Animal Metabolism-Agricultural Chemicals Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #211710


item Shelver, Weilin

Submitted to: Organohalogen Compounds
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/19/2007
Publication Date: 9/3/2007
Citation: Shelver, W.L. 2007. Determination of polybrominated diphenyl ether soil levels at a fire fighter training station and along railroad tracks. Organohalogen Compounds 69:2763-2766.

Interpretive Summary: This project details taking soil samples in three different directions (the fourth direction was not accessible) and various distances from a site used to train fire fighters by burning objects and allowing the fire fighters to extinguish the fires. Since some of the objects contain fire resistant materials such as polybromodiphenyl ethers (PBDEs), it was expected the surrounding soil would be contaminated by these PBDEs. PBDEs are materials that are not very volatile so they won’t go away by evaporation; they are not very water soluble so they won’t wash away; and they are not transformed by living organisms so they remain in the environment. They do partition into living organisms so they accumulate, and reports show they are accumulating in humans in North America at an alarming rate. Because of this it is important to know where and how they are polluting. The study demonstrated that PBDEs were found near the burn site in nearly 100 times the concentration they were found in rural sites, isolated from direct pollution sources frequently found in urban areas. The rural sites also had measurable amounts of PBDEs but these were quite low.

Technical Abstract: Analysis of the PBDE content of soils from remote rural areas along railroad tracks and from a fire fighter training site demonstrated contamination of the soil, particularly at the latter site where BDE-47, -99, -100, -153, and -154, were found at considerable levels. The remote sites, along old railway tracks, showed minimum contamination (highest congener, BDE-47 ~1,600 pg/g) when compared with the burn site (highest congener BDE-99 ~90,000 pg/g). The remote sites had a slightly different congener distribution with BDE-47 present in the highest concentration resembling the reports for air samples. The surface sample at the training site (0-5 cm) showed more than ~5 times higher concentration levels than the subsurface samples (5-15 cm.). The PBDE levels decreased as distance from the burn site increased with the rate of decrease being nearly the same for all congeners. The presence of BDE-183, a marker for the octa formulation, was detected but the concentrations were low and highly variable indicating a different source from the penta formulation.