Passive air samplers (PAS) consisting of polyurethane foam (PUF) disks were deployed at 6 outdoor air monitoring stations in different land use categories (commercial, industrial, residential and semi-rural) to assess the spatial distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the Brisbane airshed. Air monitoring sites covered an area of 1143 km2 and PAS were allowed to accumulate PBDEs in the city's airshed over three consecutive seasons commencing in the winter of 2008. The average sum of five (∑5) PBDEs (BDEs 28, 47, 99, 100 and 209) levels were highest at the commercial and industrial sites (12.7 ± 5.2 ng PUF−1), which were relatively close to the city center and were a factor of 8 times higher than residential and semi-rural sites located in outer Brisbane. To estimate the magnitude of the urban ‘plume’ an empirical exponential decay model was used to fit PAS data vs. distance from the CBD, with the best correlation observed when the particulate bound BDE-209 was not included (∑5-209) (r2 = 0.99), rather than ∑5 (r2 = 0.84). At 95% confidence intervals the model predicts that regardless of site characterization, ∑5-209 concentrations in a PAS sample taken between 4–10 km from the city centre would be half that from a sample taken from the city centre and reach a baseline or plateau (0.6 to 1.3 ng PUF−1), approximately 30 km from the CBD. The observed exponential decay in ∑5-209 levels over distance corresponded with Brisbane's decreasing population density (persons/km2) from the city center. The residual error associated with the model increased significantly when including BDE-209 levels, primarily due to the highest level (11.4 ± 1.8 ng PUF−1) being consistently detected at the industrial site, indicating a potential primary source at this site. Active air samples collected alongside the PAS at the industrial air monitoring site (B) indicated BDE-209 dominated congener composition and was entirely associated with the particulate phase. This study demonstrates that PAS are effective tools for monitoring citywide regional differences however, interpretation of spatial trends for POPs which are predominantly associated with the particulate phase such as BDE-209, may be restricted to identifying ‘hotspots’ rather than broad spatial trends
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