Environmental Policy

Variations of Flame Retardant, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon, and Pesticide Concentrations in Chicago’s Atmosphere Measured using Passive Sampling

Peverly, A.A.; Ma, Y.; Venier, M.; Rodenburg, Z.; Spak, S.N.; Hornbuckle, K.C.; Hites, R.A.


Atmospheric concentrations of flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and pesticides were measured using passive air samplers equipped with polyurethane foam disks to find spatial information in and around Chicago, Illinois. Samplers were deployed around the greater Chicago area for intervals of 6 weeks from 2012 to 2013 (inclusive). Volumes were calculated using passive sampling theory and were based on meteorology and the compounds’ octanol–air partition coefficients. Geometric mean concentrations of total polybrominated diphenyl ethers ranged from 11 to 150 pg/m3, and tributyl phosphate, tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate, tris(1-chloro-2-propyl)phosphate, and triphenyl phosphate concentrations were in the ranges of 54–290, 32–340, 130–580, and 170–580 pg/m3, respectively. The summed concentrations of 16 PAHs ranged from 8700 to 52 000 pg/m3 over the sampling area, and DDT, chlordane, and endosulfan concentrations were in the ranges of 2.7–9.9, 8.2–66, and 16–85 pg/m3, respectively. Sampling sites were split into two groups depending on their distances from the Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago. With a few exceptions, the concentrations of most compound groups in the city’s center were the same or slightly higher than those measured >45 km away. The data also showed that the concentrations measured with a passive atmospheric sampling system are in good agreement with those measured with an active, high-volume, sampling system. Given that the sampling times are different (passive, 43 days; active, 1 day), and that both of these measured concentrations cover about 5 orders of magnitude, the agreement between these passive and active sampling methods is excellent.