Monitoring and exposure assessment of organophosphorus flame retardants in source and drinking water, Nanjing, China

  • Xiangping LiuEmail author
  • Lilin Xiong
  • Dengkun Li
  • Chunjing Chen
  • Qian CaoEmail author


This study developed a new method to determine the residues of 13 organophosphorus flame retardants (OPFRs) in drinking water by gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS) technique and investigated the chemical distribution in water samples from municipal plants along the Yangtze River in Nanjing. The linear calibration correlation coefficients R2 for all 13 OPFRs were at least 0.998 0. Three levels of spiked test were performed. Most of the recoveries were in the range of 80~120%, and the relative standard deviations (RSDs) for the 13 OPFRs were 2.1~17% (n = 6). Five OPFRs were 100% positively detected in the samples, and 3 OPFRs were positively detected in some samples. The concentrations of detected OPFR in the water ranged from 0.7 to 5780.0 ng L−1. The average concentrations of OPFRs in wet season were higher than those in dry season, and the contaminants mainly originated from the source water in the Yangtze River. The exposure assessments of individual and total OPFRs were investigated. The estimated daily intakes of total OPFRs via ingestion of drinking water reached up to 64.8 and 45.2 ng/kg bw/day in dry and wet season, respectively. This study demonstrates a profile of OPFR distribution in Nanjing municipal water and provides information on human exposure assessment via drinking water in the Nanjing District, China.


Organophosphorus flame retardants (OPFRs) Drinking water Gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS) Exposure assessment 



This study was supported by the Preventive Medicine of Special Funds from the Health Department of the Jiangsu Province (grant number Y2013002) and the Key Project supported by the Medical Science and Technology Development Foundation, Nanjing Department of Health (grant number YKK14167).

Supplementary material

10661_2019_7239_MOESM1_ESM.png (309 kb)
Supplementary Figure 1 (PNG 308 kb)
10661_2019_7239_MOESM2_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOCX 24 kb)


  1. Albero, B., Sánchez-Brunete, C., Miguel, E., & Tadeo, J. L. (2017). Application of matrix solid-phase dispersion followed by GC–MS/MS to the analysis of emerging contaminants in vegetables. Food Chemistry, 217, 660–667. Scholar
  2. Bergh, C., Luongo, G., Wise, S., & Östman, C. (2012). Organophosphate and phthalate esters in standard reference material 2585 organic contaminants in house dust. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 402, 51–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cao, Z., Xu, F., Covac, A., Wu, M., Wang, H., Yu, G., et al. (2014). Distribution patterns of brominated, chlorinated, and phosphorus flame retardants with particle size in indoor and outdoor dust and implications for human exposure. Environmental Science & Technology, 48, 8839–8846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen, D., Letcher, R. J., & Chu, S. (2012). Determination of non-halogenated, chlorinated and brominated organophosphate flame retardants in herring gull eggs based on liquid chromatography-tandem quadrupole mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, 1220, 169–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cristale, J., Quintana, J., Chaler, R., Ventura, F., & Lacorte, S. (2012). Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry comprehensive analysis of organophosphorus, brominated flame retardants, by-products and formulation intermediates in water. Journal of Chromatography A, 1241, 1–12. Scholar
  6. Ding, J., Shen, X., Liu, W., Covaci, A., & Yang, F. (2015). Occurrence and risk assessment of organophosphate esters in drinking water from Eastern China. Science of the Total Environment, 538, 959–965. Scholar
  7. Gao, Z., Deng, Y., Yuan, W., He, H., Yang, S., & Sun, C. (2014). Determination of organophosphorus flame retardants in fish by pressurized liquid extraction using aqueous solutions and solid-phase microextraction coupled with gas chromatography-flame photometric detector. Journal of Chromatography A, 1366, 31–37. Scholar
  8. Gil García, M. D., Uclés Duque, S., Lozano Fernández, A. B., Sosa, A., & Fernández-Alba, A. R. (2017). Multiresidue method for trace pesticide analysis in honeybee wax comb by GC-QqQ-MS. Talanta, 163, 54–64. Scholar
  9. Giulivo, M., Capri, E., Eljarrat, E., & Barceló, D. (2016). Analysis of organophosphorus flame retardants in environmental and biotic matrices using on-line turbulent flow chromatography-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, 1474, 71–78. Scholar
  10. Kim, J.-W., Isobe, T., Chang, K.-H., Amano, A., Maneja, R. H., Zamora, P. B., Siringan, F. P., & Tanabe, S. (2011). Levels and distribution of organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in fishes from Manila Bay, the Philippines. Environmental Pollution, 159, 3653–3659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kojima, H., Takeuchi, S., Itoh, T., Iida, M., Kobayashi, S., & Yoshida, T. (2013). In vitro endocrine disruption potential of organophosphate flame retardants via human nuclear receptors. Toxicology, 314, 76–83. Scholar
  12. Lee, S., Jeong, W., Kannan, K., & Moon, H.-B. (2016). Occurrence and exposure assessment of organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) through the consumption of drinking water in Korea. Water Research, 103, 182–188. Scholar
  13. Li, J., Yu, N., Zhang, B., Jin, L., Li, M., Hu, M., Zhang, X., Wei, S., & Yu, H. (2014). Occurrence of organophosphate flame retardants in drinking water from China. Water Research, 54, 53–61. Scholar
  14. Möller, A., Sturm, R., Xie, Z., Cai, M., He, J., & Ebinghaus, R. (2012). Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in airborne particles over the northern Pacific and Indian Ocean toward the polar regions: evidence for global occurrence. Environmental Science & Technology, 46, 3127–3134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Möller, A., Xie, Z., Caba, A., Sturm, R., & Ebinghaus, R. (2011). Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in the atmosphere of the North Sea. Environmental Pollution, 159, 3660–3665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mackerer, C. R., Barth, M. L., Krueger, A. J., Chawla, B., & Roy, T. A. (1999). Comparison of neurotoxic effects and potential risks from oral administration or ingestion of tricresyl phosphate and jet engine oil containing tricresyl phosphate. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health-Part A, 57, 293–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Marklund, A., Andersson, B., & Haglund, P. (2005). Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in Swedish sewage treatment plants. Environmental Science & Technology, 39, 7423–7429.$30.25.
  18. Ministry of Environmental Protection of the P.R.C. Exposure factors handbook of Chinese population (for adults). Beijing: China Environmental Science Press (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  19. Ministry of Health of the P.R.C. & Standardization Administration of the P.R.C. Standard examination methods for drinking water-Collection and preservation of water samples, GB/T 5750.2-2006. Beijing: Standards Press of China (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  20. Nacher-Mestre, J., Serrano, R., Portolés, T., & Hernández, F. (2011). Investigation of organophosphate esters in fresh water, salt and brine samples by GC-TOF MS. Analytical Methods, 3, 1779–1785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Quintana, J. B., Rodil, R., & Reemtsma, T. (2008). Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in water and air II. Analytical methodology. Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 27, 904–915. Scholar
  22. Reemtsma, T., Benito Quintana, J., Rodil, R., García-López, M., & Rodríguez, I. (2008). Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in water and air I. Occurrence and fate. Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 27, 727–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Riva, F., Castiglioni, S., Fattore, E., Manenti, A., & Davoli, E. (2018). Monitoring emerging contaminants in the drinking water of Milan and assessment of the human risk. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 221, 451–457. Scholar
  24. Rodil, R., Benito Quintana, J., Concha-Graña, E., López-Mahía, P., Muniategui-Lorenzo, S., & Prada-Rodríguez, D. (2012). Emerging pollutants in sewage, surface and drinking water in Galicia (NW Spain). Chemosphere, 86, 1040–1049. Scholar
  25. Santín, G., Eljarrat, E., & Barceló, D. (2016). Simultaneous determination of 16 organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in fish by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A, 1441, 34–43. Scholar
  26. Shi, W., Zhang, F., Zhang, X., Su, G., Wei, S., Liu, H., Cheng, S., & Yu, H. (2011). Identification of trace organic pollutants in freshwater sources in Eastern China and estimation of their associated human health risks. Ecotoxicology, 20, 1099–1106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Shi, Y., Gao, L., Li, W., Wang, Y., Liu, J., & Cai, Y. (2016). Occurrence, distribution and seasonal variation of organophosphate flame retardants and plasticizers in urban surface water in Beijing, China. Environmental Pollution, 209, 1–10. Scholar
  28. Stackelberg, P. E., Furlong, E. T., Meyer, M. T., Zaugg, S. D., Henderson, A. K., & Reissman, D. B. (2004). Persistence of pharmaceutical compounds and other organic wastewater contaminants in a conventional drinking-water-treatment plant. Science of the Total Environment, 329, 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tan, X.-X., Luo, X.-J., Zheng, X.-B., Li, Z.-R., Sun, R.-X., & Mai, B.-X. (2016). Distribution of organophosphorus flame retardants in sediments from the Pearl River Delta in South China. Science of the Total Environment, 544, 77–84. Scholar
  30. Wei, G.-L., Li, D.-Q., Zhuo, M.-N., Liao, Y.-S., Xie, Z.-Y., Guo, T.-L., Li, J. J., Zhang, S. Y., & Liang, Z. Q. (2015). Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers: sources, occurrence, toxicity and human exposure. Environmental Pollution, 196, 29–46. Scholar
  31. Wolschke, H., Sühring, R., Xie, Z., & Ebinghaus, R. (2015). Organophosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers in the aquatic environment: a case study of the Elbe River, Germany. Environmental Pollution, 206, 488–493. Scholar
  32. Yan, X.-J., He, H., Peng, Y., Wang, X.-M., Gao, Z.-Q., & Yang, S.-G. (2012). Determination of organophosphorus flame retardants in surface water by solid phase extraction coupled with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Chinease Journal of Analytical Chemistry, 40(11), 1693–1697. Scholar
  33. Yang, F., Ding, J., Huang, W., Xie, W., & Liu, W. (2014). Particle size-specific distributions and preliminary exposure assessments of organophosphate flame retardants in office air particulate matter. Environmental Science & Technology, 48, 63–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nanjing Municipal Center for Disease Control and PreventionNanjingChina
  2. 2.School of Public Health of Southeast UniversityNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations