Bromine-containing fire retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs) and plasticizers occur in a great many places in the environment because of their widespread use in electronic devices, clothing, toys and plastic furniture. The EU prohibited pentaBDE and octaBDE mixtures as early as 2004 and decaBDE in electrical devices in 2009. Consequently, increasing numbers of alternatives to these fire retardants, which contain substances such as metal and phosphorous, are appearing on the market.
The Department of Environment and Health has developed a quick, cheap and reliable analytical method for measuring the presence of established and new fire retardants and plasticizers in various materials, such as computers, TVs, electronic waste and car interiors. The method has been dubbed 'Direct Probe' and it is used along with Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization (APCI) and high resolution (HR) time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry (MS). This technology can be used to identify fire retardants and plasticizers in materials in only a few minutes. This is highly beneficial for e.g. recycling processes. It can also be applied to quickly assess chemicals in products and e-waste (see e.g. UNEP Chemicals in Products Programme)
Ballesteros-Gomez, A., J de Boer P.E.G. Leonards (2013). Novel Analytical Methods for Flame Retardants and Plasticizers based on Gas Chromatography, Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography and Direct Probe Coupled to Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization-High Resolution Time-of-Flight-Mass Spectrometry. Anal. Chem. 85, 9572-9580.
Prof. dr Pim Leonards