• Bioavailability;
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers;
  • Sediment;
  • Deposit feeder;
  • Nereis


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame-retardant chemicals that have become ubiquitous environmental contaminants. Polybrominated diphenyl ether no-uptake rates from estuarine or marine sediments to deposit-feeding organisms have not yet been reported. In the present study, the marine polychaete worm Nereis virens was exposed to field-contaminated and spiked sediments containing the penta- and deca-BDE commercial mixtures in a 28-d experiment to characterize the relative bioavailability of PBDE congeners from estuarine sediments. A time series sampling regimen was conducted to estimate uptake rate constants. In both field-collected and laboratory-spiked sediment exposures, worms selectively accumulated congeners in the penta-BDE mixture over BDE 209 and other components of the deca-BDE mixture, supporting the prevalence of these congeners in higher trophic level species. Brominated diphenyl ether 209 was not bioavailable to N. virens from field sediment and was only minimally detected in worms exposed to spiked sediments in which bioavailability was maximized. Chemical hydrophobicity was not a good predictor of bioavailability for congeners in the penta-BDE mixture. Direct comparison of bioavailability from the spiked and field sediments for the predominant congeners in the penta-BDE mixture was confounded by the considerable difference in exposure concentration between treatments. Biota-sediment accumulation factors (BSAFs) for N. virens after 28 d of exposure to the field sediment were lower than the BSAFs for Nereis succinea collected from the field site, indicating that 28-d bioaccumulation tests using N. virens may underestimate the in situ concentration of PBDEs in deposit-feeding species. The bioavailability of PBDEs to N. virens indicates that these chemicals can be remobilized from estuarine sediments and transferred to aquatic food webs. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1204–1212. © 2011 SETAC