Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Robert C. Hale


Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants are widely used as non-reactive additives in textiles, polyurethane foams, plastics, furnishings, and electronic products. as a result of substantial, long-term usages, PBDEs have contaminated humans, wildlife, air, water, soil, and sediment, even in remote areas. Although the North American and Asian (particularly Chinese) markets have consumed the majority of global PBDE production, knowledge about PBDE contamination is limited in these two regions. Therefore, this research aimed to investigate PBDE contamination in some Chinese and North American areas by examining the birds of prey that have been considered as sensitive monitoring species for organochlorine contamination. Particular interests were in the bioaccumulation of BDE-209, a predominant congener in Deca-BDE and the only PBDE formulation still in use worldwide. It is widely believed to have limited bioavailability. The study was primarily performed in three regions: Beijing in North China, New England and the Chesapeake Bay regions in the U.S. to our best knowledge this study is the first to examine PBDE contamination in terrestrial raptors from both North America and Asia. The results revealed (1) dissimilar PBDE congener distribution patterns between aquatic and terrestrial birds of prey, suggesting that individual congeners may be subject to differences in bioaccumulation, biomagnification or metabolism in the aquatic and terrestrial environments; (2) substantial biomagnification of PBDEs (BMF = 41.4) in the Chesapeake Bay fish-osprey egg chain; (3) an influence by diet preference and living habitat on the contamination burdens and congener profiles in the birds; (4) substantial PBDE contamination in the Chinese birds of prey, indicating elevated exposure due to extensive application of PBDEs in the city; (5) record-high BDE-209 concentrations in Chinese kestrels and U.S. peregrine falcon eggs, indicating the substantial accumulation of this congener in the terrestrial birds of prey; (6) significantly higher BDE-209 concentrations in the urban peregrine falcon eggs, indicating a greater abundance of Deca-BDE in the urban environment; (7) a rapid increase in BDE-209 concentrations in the northeastern U.S. peregrine eggs, which may have resulted from the continuing use of Deca-BDE; and (8) a potential breakdown of BDE-209 to less brominated and more bioavailable congeners. A review of studies in birds of prey worldwide clearly indicated a greater abundance of BDE-209 in the North American and Chinese birds compared to European species. This follows well the global market demand pattern of Deca-BDE, in which North America and Asia have historically consumed 44% and 41% of the world's total production, respectively. The above findings of high BDE-209 concentrations, short doubling time, and potential biodegradation in the terrestrial birds of prey, indicate the need to limit unnecessary Deca-BDE release to the environment.



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