BACKGROUND, AIM, AND SCOPE: The historical and widespread use of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as flame retardants in consumer products worldwide has caused PBDEs to now be regarded as pervasive environmental contaminants. Most recently, hydroxylated PBDEs (OH-PBDEs) and methoxylated PBDEs (MeO-PBDEs) have emerged as environmentally relevant due to reports of their natural production and metabolism. An important parameter for assessing the environmental impact of a chemical substance is persistence. By formulating the concept that persistence is the result of the substance's physicochemical properties and chemical reactivity, Green and Bergman have proposed a new methodology to determine the inherent persistence of a chemical. If persistence could be predicted by straightforward methods, substances with this quality could be screened out before large-scale production/manufacturing begins. To provide data to implement this concept, we have developed new methodologies to study chemical transformations through photolysis; hydrolysis, substitution, and elimination; and via oxidation. This study has focused on adapting an oxidative reaction method to be applicable to non-water soluble organic pollutants. MATERIALS AND METHODS: PBDEs and one MeO-PBDE were dissolved in tetrahydrofuran/methanol and then diluted in alkaline water. The OH-PBDEs were dissolved in alkaline water prior to reaction. The oxidation degradation reaction was performed at 50 degrees C using potassium permanganate as described elsewhere. The pH was maintained at 7.6 with disodium hydrogen phosphate and barium hydrogen phosphate, the latter also serving as a trapping agent for manganate ions. The oxidation reactions were monitored by high-performance liquid chromatography and reaction rates were calculated. RESULTS: The OH-PBDEs have very fast oxidative transformation rates compared to the PBDEs. The reaction rates seem to be primarily dependent on substitution pattern of the pi-electron-donating bromine substituents and of bromine content. There are indications that further reactions of OH-PBDEs, e.g., methylation to the MeO-PBDEs, decrease the oxidation rates, and thereby generate more persistent substances. DISCUSSION: The resistance of PBDEs to oxidation, a major degradation pathway in air, should be further investigated, since these compounds do undergo long range transport. With slight modifications, the original method has been adapted to include a larger variety of chemical substances, and preliminary data are now available on the oxidative transformation rates for PBDEs and of OH-PBDEs. CONCLUSIONS: The original oxidation degradation method can now include non-water soluble compounds. This modification, using low concentrations of test chemicals, allows us to measure oxidative transformation rates, for some of the lower brominated DEs, data that can be used to assess their persistence in future model calculations. Oxidative transformation rates for PBDEs are slow compared to those for the OH-PBDEs. This suggests that OH-PBDEs, when released into the environment, undergo faster oxidative metabolism and excretion than the PBDEs. RECOMMENDATIONS AND PERSPECTIVES: To evaluate the modified method, more degradation reactions with non-water soluble compounds should be investigated. Recent studies show that OH-PBDEs are present in rats and in humans and, because of their activity as endocrine disruptors, determining their subsequent environmental fate is of importance. The resistance of PBDEs to oxidative degradation should be acknowledged as of possible future concern. Several other compound classes (such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hydroxylated polychlorinated biphenyls (OH-PCBs), and pharmaceuticals) need to be subjected to this screening method to increase the database of transformation rates that can be used with this model.
2008. Vol. 15, no 7, 606-613 p.