Impact of “healthier” materials interventions on dust concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and organophosphate esters

Harvard University, New York University

Publication Release Date: Oct. 19, 2020
Date Posted: Jan. 12, 2021
Submitted by: Jasmine Xie
Sustainability Topic: Buildings
Content Type: Publications
Discipline: Technology & Trades
Publisher: ScienceDirect
Periodical Name: Environment International
Type: Journal Article


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and organophosphate esters (OPEs) are found in building materials and associated with thyroid disease, infertility, and impaired development. This study’s objectives were to (1) compare levels of PFAS, PBDEs, and OPEs in dust from spaces with conventional versus “healthier” furniture and carpet, and (2) identify other product sources of flame retardants in situ. We measured 15 PFAS, 8 PBDEs, and 19 OPEs in dust from offices, common areas, and classrooms having undergone either no intervention (conventional rooms in older buildings meeting strict fire codes; n = 12), full “healthier” materials interventions (rooms with “healthier” materials in buildings constructed more recently or gut-renovated; n = 7), or partial interventions (other rooms with at least “healthier” foam furniture but more potential building contamination; n = 28). We also scanned all materials for bromine and phosphorus as surrogates of PBDEs and OPEs respectively, using x-ray fluorescence. In multilevel regression models, rooms with full “healthier” materials interventions had 78% lower dust levels of PFAS than rooms with no intervention (p < 0.01). Rooms with full “healthier” interventions also had 65% lower OPE levels in dust than rooms with no intervention (p < 0.01) and 45% lower PBDEs than rooms with only partial interventions (p < 0.10), adjusted for covariates related to insulation, electronics, and furniture. Bromine loadings from electronics in rooms were associated with PBDE concentrations in dust (p < 0.05), and the presence of exposed insulation was associated with OPE dust concentrations (p < 0.001). Full “healthier” materials renovations successfully reduced chemical classes in dust. Future interventions should address electronics, insulation, and building cross-contamination.