Occurrence and fate of organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in coastal and marine surface waters

Ulla E. Bollmann, Axel Möller, Zhiyong Xie, Ralf Ebinghaus, Jürgen W. Einax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

211 Citations (Scopus)


This comprehensive study focused on the spatial and seasonal variations of organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers (OPs) in surface water from the estuary of the River Elbe and the German Bight (North Sea). 100 surface water samples were extracted by solid phase extraction (SPE) and analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) with regard to 16 different OPs. The dominating substance was found to be tris(1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TCPP) (Elbe: 40-250ngL-1, German Bight: 3-28ngL-1). Furthermore, triethyl phosphate (TEP), tri-iso-butyl phosphate (TiBP), tris(2-butoxyethyl) phosphate (TBEP), and triphenylphosphine oxide (TPPO) were detected in concentrations up to 180ngL-1. Seasonal trends were detected for the longitudinal profile of the Elbe estuary. Besides the dilution of river water with North Sea water toward the mouth, leading to decreasing concentrations at the four sampling cruises (March, May, August, and October, 2010), an additional depletion of non-halogenated OPs was observed in summer which is supposed to be due to biodegradation or photodegradation.In addition, a comparison of all important tributaries of the German Bight (Elbe, Ems, and Weser) as well as the indirect tributaries Meuse, Rhine, and Scheldt was done by multivariate statistical methods. It could be shown that the contribution of non-halogenated alkylated OPs in the Rhine was higher than in all other tributaries. The riverine input of OPs into the North Sea via the investigated tributaries was estimated to be about 50tyr-1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-538
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Estuary
  • North Sea
  • River
  • Seasonal variations
  • TCEP
  • TCPP

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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