Migration of hazardous chemicals to the indoor environment – Horizon Scanning for flame retardants present in consumer goods

Date: 26 February 2016

Venue: UAntwerp, Campus Drie Eiken, R2 - Universiteitsplein 1 - 2610 Antwerp (Wilrijk)

Time: 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM

PhD candidate: Alin Ionas

Principal investigator: Hugo Neels

Co-principal investigator: Adrian Covaci

Short description: PhD defence Alin Ionas - Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Department Pharmaceutical Sciences


The PhD thesis entitled 'Migration of hazardous chemicals to the indoor environment – Horizon Scanning for flame retardants present in consumer goods' by Alin Constantin IONAS has investigated the migration of flame retardant (FR) chemicals from consumer products into the indoor environment. FRs are added to consumer products and construction materials to impart flame retardancy, so as to decrease the risk of fire-related injuries and deaths. The monitoring of these chemicals is important since many of the past and current used FRs have been shown to pose serious health risks.

Firstly, indicators of indoor contamination, such as air and house dust, were analysed for their FR content. A procedure to simplify the analysis of FRs in dust was developed and house dust from the USA (California) was analysed for a wide range of FRs. Paired air samples were also analysed alongside the dust samples from Norway. Secondly, we have investigated the possible sources of FRs, such as consumer products, electronics, textiles, and toys.

A new analytical method for new/emerging PFRs (organophosphate FRs and plasticisers) was developed for dust, textiles and plastics on UPLC-MS/MS. FRs were also determined in textile samples from the Belgian market, employing a comprehensive multi-technique approach. The samples were firstly screened by Direct Probe-TOF-MS, then underwent quantitative analysis by GC-MS and then further investigation using an array of Environmental Forensic Microscopy techniques. Using the same approach, FRs were also investigated in plastics collected from electronic devices.

Children’s toys, a consumer product usually ignored in exposure scenarios, were also investigated for FR levels. To detect and identify hitherto unknown FRs, a non-targeted screening method was developed on LC-(Q)TOF-MS, with a focus on halogenated analytes. Lastly, the exposure to these chemicals was assessed using both theoretical and experimental models. The FR exposure resulting from children play with toys was assessed using models from the literature. We have established that for the most vulnerable age group, the infants, the exposure through mouthing is the most significant exposure pathway. Consequently, the mouthing exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) was simulated and more accurately assessed, thus filling a gap in the general knowledge about FR exposure.