DV-17-16 Measuring concentrations of brominated flame retardants in microplastic from Penobscot Bay

Cary Friedman
Assistant Professor of Marine Science
Maine Maritime Academy
Castine, ME

Persistent organic pollutants are pervasive throughout the world’s oceans, and they are present in the Penobscot River and Bay. One type of pollutant, a polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) used as flame retardant on a wide variety of products, can be toxic to people and wildlife and has been detected in fish in Penobscot Bay. Microplastics—tiny bits of degraded and broken plastic—also occur throughout the ocean. Most of these kinds of pollutants enter rivers and coastal waters via wastewater treatment plants. PBDE and other carbon-containing chemicals tend to stick to plastic, accummulating at concentrations ~5-7 orders of magnitude greater than their concentration in water. With this grant, Friedman and undergraduate student assistants will collect microplastics from different locations in Penobscot River and Bay and analyze the plastic for PBDE content.

The equipment and methodology supported by this project will benefit Friedman’s research program examining the transport and fate of organic contaminants, and her developing partnerships with Tribal communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Sea Grant funds: $2,260