• Polybrominated diphenyl ethers;
  • E-waste;
  • Concentration level;
  • Congener profile;
  • Mass inventory


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were determined in 60 surface soils from two e-waste recycling sites (Qingyuan and Guiyu, China) and their surrounding areas to assess the extent and influence of PBDEs from e-waste recycling sites on the surrounding areas. A total of 32 surface soils from industrial areas in South China were also investigated for comparison. The mean concentrations of total PBDEs in the e-waste recycling sites of Guiyu and Qingyuan were 2,909 and 3,230 ng/g dry weight, respectively, whereas the PBDE concentrations decreased dramatically (1–2 orders of magnitude) with increasing distance from the recycling site, suggesting that the e-waste recycling activities were the major source of PBDEs in the surrounding areas. Decabromodiphenyl ethers accounted for 77.0 to 85.8% of total PBDEs in e-waste recycling areas, whereas it accounted for 90.2% in industrial areas. Principal component analysis showed that the major source of PBDEs in e-waste recycling areas were a combination of penta-, octa-, and deca-BDE commercial formulations, whereas deca-BDE commercial formulations were the major source of PBDE congeners in industrial areas. The inventories of PBDEs gave preliminary estimates of 6.22 tons and 13.4 tons for the e-waste recycling areas and industrial areas. The results suggested that significantly higher PBDEs in the e-waste recycling sites have already affected surrounding areas negatively within a relatively large distance. Because of the environmental persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity of PBDEs, improving the recycling techniques employed at such facilities and developing e-waste management policies are necessary. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:2688–2696. © 2011 SETAC